Spain’s roll of the dice

April 10, 2012 8:11 am

Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson wants to expand his gambling empire to Spain, where residents hurt by the recession can try to gamble their way out of economic trouble.

Just as casino companies have lobbied U.S. states facing budget deficits to legalize casinos, Adelson is making the same pitch to Spain, which is dealing with its own economic turmoil. The casino firms tout jobs and tax revenue, but overlook the fact that in order for states to win, their residents must lose. Casinos are not economic development. They strip wealth from economies and create almost no new spending.

But public officials – who are out of ideas or afraid to make tough decisions about governments pending and taxes – continue to fall for gambling as a solution. In Spain, Adelson has made several demands in return for his offer to build a massive casino. They reportedly include: tax breaks; social security exceptions; land concessions, significant public spending; and reforms to anti-smoking, labor, and immigration laws. Some reforms violate existing Spanish laws — including smoking bans in casinos, gambling by minors and gambling addicts, and money laundering. Nice.

Adeslon’s company is under federal investigation for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Macau, a Chinese gambling outpost rife with crime, corruption, mobs and money laundering. Adelson has also made recent headlines in the U.S. for giving tens of millions of dollars to a Super PAC that is backing Newt Gingrich’s sagging presidential bid. The demands alone should give Spain some indication of who they are contemplating doing business with.

Spain: The next Vegas?

March 27, 2012 11:58 am

Casino operators have used the recession to spread gambling opportunities across the United States. Now Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino operator who has donated millions to Newt Gingrich’s flagging presidential campaign, is using the financial crisis in Spain to tout a plan to build Vegas-style mega casinos.

Adelson wants to build Europe’s first Las Vegas-style resort in either Madrid or Barcelona. Casinos are legal in Spain, but they are small, low-key establishments that cater mainly to the wealthy. Adelson wants to build a huge casino resort that would eclipse either city’s skyline, allow smoking and cater to the masses

As in the U.S., Adelson is using the idea of jobs and tax revenue to sell the casino idea. Casino operators have pounced on the desperation of citizens and lawmakers to promote gambling as a means of economic development. No doubt casinos create jobs. But stripping more wealth from citizens via gambling is not economic development.

Just ask Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Samuelson: “[Gambling] involves simply sterile transfers of money or goods between individuals, creating no new money or goods. Although it creates output, gambling does nevertheless absorb time and resources. When pursued beyond the limits of recreation, where the main purpose after all is to “kill” time, gambling subtracts from the national income.”

Translation: individuals and governments can’t gamble their way to prosperity.