Madrid is the landlocked heart of Spain. But Valdecarros—the southernmost stop on the light-blue subway line—feels like the end of the world. The view is desolate, and the smell foul; an aroma of rotten eggs wafts from a nearby dump. More menacing than the odor are the cranes, peering out over squat, half-built housing units in every direction.
Tens of thousands of these units, and whole retail communities along with them, were once planned for Valdecarros. Now, in Spain’s fourth year of recession, the cranes stand motionless. Abandoned construction sites are strewn across the country’s urban fringes, and draconian austerity measures—including $80 billion in combined budget cuts and tax hikes—have battered its economy. In June, faced with plummeting credit ratings and nearly 25 percent unemployment, the Spanish government agreed to a bank bailout from the European Union.
Yet where most observers see ruin, Sheldon Adelson sees opportunity. The American casino mogul, who made his early billions in Las Vegas and has since expanded his gambling empire to Pennsylvania, Macau, and Singapore, bet early and heavily on Newt Gingrich’s ill-fated presidential campaign (he’s since opened his war chest to Mitt Romney). Meanwhile, Adelson was also banking on Spain’s distress, announcing last year his plans to build a gambling development on Spanish soil, a venture now projected to cost $35 billion and to include 12 resorts, nine theaters, six casinos, three golf courses, and a stadium. He calls it “EuroVegas.”