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gambling

After a century of exile, new casinos open in central Madrid

Until 2012, Spanish law prohibited gambling establishments within a radius of 29 kilometers of the center of towns and cities

The Gran Casino Madrid-Colón, on Paseo de Recoletos. Ampliar foto
The Gran Casino Madrid-Colón, on Paseo de Recoletos.

Barely 30 minutes after the Gran Casino Madrid-Colón opened its doors on the capital's central Recoletos boulevard last month, around 100 people had gathered around its roulette, blackjack and poker tables, taking advantage of the first casino to open its doors in Madrid in almost a century. A second casino was inaugurated a week ago in the center of the capital.

The opening of these two gambling establishments came within days of the Las Vegas Sands (LVS) group's announcement that it would not be going ahead with its plan to build a macro-casino and leisure complex on the outskirts of Madrid, following the government's decision not to cede to its demands. The head of the Casino Gran Madrid, Ángel María Escolano, launched the first ball on the roulette wheel. Authorization for the casino had been granted "just a couple of hours before," according to José María Paredes, its director of communication.

The new gambling complex covers more than 4,000 square meters over four floors. The main area, accessed from the street, has a café, slot machines and card tables. The upper floors house a restaurant, another bar and a private games room.

Until 2012, Spanish law prohibited gambling establishments within a radius of 29 kilometers of the center of towns and cities. Madrid's Gran Casino opened 32 years ago in the northwestern dormitory town of Torrelodones. The creation of new city center branches of this casino and of the one in Aranjuez, southeast of the capital, was authorized last year.

The Gran Casino Gran Vía plans to set a stable program of shows and extravaganzas

The possibility that LVS would open its Eurovegas complex 14 kilometers from the center of the capital led to several changes in the law, including tax breaks. "We believe that the legal changes are more to do with the normalization of gambling in Spain than the Eurovegas project as such. Let's hope the government is prepared to continue lowering taxes," says Paredes, who adds he is sorry the Eurovegas project did not go ahead, "because it would have created jobs." That said, he admits it would have presented "ferocious competition" for his casino.

Meanwhile, at number 24 Gran Vía, in the heart of the capital, the new branch of the Casino Aranjuez, owned by the Galicia-based Comar group, which runs 10 casinos across Spain, opened last week. It spans over 4,500 square meters across three stories. The facilities include a café and a gambling hall fitted with 65 poker machines, as well as blackjack and poker tables.

The Gran Casino Gran Vía plans to set a stable program of shows and extravaganzas. The top floor is reserved for an Asian room, decorated with Far Eastern motifs and fitted with American roulette tables. Designed to act as a private space, it features a traditional Basque restaurant and a champagne bar.