By Tracy Rucinski
MADRID (Reuters) - Las Vegas Sands
Spain's two rival cities are vying for a planned 12-hotel, six-casino complex that could create a quarter of a million jobs in the country where unemployment tops 24 percent.
A decision on the location was expected in June or July but has been delayed because both Madrid and Barcelona have proposed new possible sites.
"What it's going to come down to is really what's the best location for what we want to do with this project," COO Michael Leven said at a news conference in Madrid, noting that both cities had notable strengths.
Leven and the company's board were in the coastal city of Barcelona on Monday, where they visited plots offered by the regional Catalan government for the project and enjoyed a dinner made by world-known Catalan chef Ferran Adria.
The entourage visited Madrid on Tuesday to see various sites around the capital before dining at the Prado Museum.
The Spanish government, which formally requested a European Union rescue for its banks on Monday, is keen for a project that could create employment that the recession-hit economy desperately needs.
Business magnate Sheldon Adelson, the chief executive and driving force behind Las Vegas Sands, chose Spain for his European dream project because of its weather and strong tourism and job potential, Leven said, and is undeterred by the deepening economic crisis.
"My personal belief is that the crisis will end at some point, while this project will go on for many years. Our company expects to take advantage of an opportunity that we may not have again because of this situation," Leven said.
The company has already initiated talks with some 30 to 40 U.S., Asian and European banks, including Spanish ones, to finance the first phase of the project to build 6,000 rooms at a cost of $6 billion to $8 billion, of which Las Vegas Sands has pledged to contribute a third.
On potential tax breaks and relaxed smoking rules the firm has been reported to be seeking, Leven said: "There are numerous discussions with the government to modify rules, but we're talking about rules that could be modified for others in a similar situation."
(Additional reporting by Robert Hetz and Clare Kane; Editing by Richard Chang)