MADRID — Even though Sheldon G. Adelson, the American billionaire casino magnate, abandoned his plans for a $30 billion casino and leisure resort on the outskirts of Madrid last month, he has nevertheless helped get the roulette wheels spinning here for the first time in almost a century.

In mid-December, Mr. Adelson dropped plans to build a resort with six casinos, known as EuroVegas, after the Spanish government refused to accept his demands for financial concessions. Just days later, however, two small casinos opened in central Madrid, operated by Spanish companies that applied for new licenses in the wake of the EuroVegas plan.

“The arrival of a giant like EuroVegas meant that we had to do something and couldn’t just stand still,” said Pedro Olmedo Franco, a director of the Casino Gran Madrid, one of Madrid’s two new casinos. Without the EuroVegas project, he added, “we probably wouldn’t be here now.”

Unlike some other Spanish cities, Madrid had a longstanding ban on any casino operating within an 18-mile radius of the city center. But it was effectively lifted when its authorities started to compete against Barcelona to lure Mr. Adelson, who had decided to locate his project in Spain. While negotiating with Mr. Adelson and under pressure from Spanish operators concerned about unfair competition from EuroVegas, Madrid decided to also grant two other licenses for smaller Spanish rivals to open casinos in the heart of the city.Before last month’s opening, Grupo Gran Madrid already owned three other casinos in Spain, with combined revenue of 28 million euros, or roughly $38 million. Madrid’s other new venue, Casino Gran Vía, is owned by Grupo Comar, which has several casinos across Spain and the Dominican Republic, which generated combined revenues of about €110 million last year.

The two new Madrid casinos differ in style, but required comparable investments — about €20 million for Gran Madrid and €15 million for Gran Vía.

Neither operator said it could provide earnings details so close to their opening. Mr. Olmedo Franco said Gran Madrid had made “a slightly weak start” during the Christmas season. On a recent evening there, several gambling tables stood empty.

In emailed answers to queries, Javier García, the general director of Grupo Comar, said he was “very satisfied” with the debut of Gran Vía, located at a century-old avenue. The casino has recently averaged 1,500 visitors a day, each paying an entrance fee of €9 and required to bet a minimum of €2.5. Mr. García forecast a profit for this year, without providing specifics. He also said the new casino was opened “independent” of EuroVegas and other business developments.

Despite Spain’s recent economic problems, the two casinos are filling a clear gap in Madrid, said Miguel Córdoba Bueno, a professor of applied mathematics who published a book last year about gambling. Mr. Adelson’s initial choice of Madrid, he contended, shows that it is “by some margin the most attractive city to set up a casino.”

Mr. Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, decided to drop EuroVegas just as other foreign investors have started to return to Spain. They had exited two years ago, when the country was plunged into a banking crisis. Since then, the banking sector has received an international bailout and the economy emerged from a two-year recession in the third quarter of 2013.

Spain still faces considerable economic challenges, including a 26 percent unemployment rate. But the casino revival has also made a contribution to Madrid on the jobs front. Gran Vía created 270 new jobs while Gran Madrid created 200 jobs, in addition to relocating 250 existing staff members to Madrid. Some of the new employees had little or no previous work experience, let alone in the casino business.“Croupier is certainly not what I expected to become, but it’s proving an exciting opportunity,” said Valeria García, 21, who has been completing a history degree at Madrid’s Complutense University.

Ms. García oversees a roulette table for six hours an evening. Croupiers like her earn €1,500 a month to start, with pay rising to about €2,400 including tips. On average, the casino pays staff €1,600 a month.

“Given how things are in Spain now,” she said, “it’s unfortunately not with history that I was going to find a job.”

With Spanish consumption still in the doldrums, Madrid’s new casinos have been targeting foreign tourists, placing advertisements in the city’s main hotels. Last year, Spain welcomed a record 60.6 million tourists, even though the number of people visiting the Spanish capital fell about 5 percent to 4.2 million.

At Gran Vía, one of the rooms has an Oriental design to help attract Chinese tourists. Both venues have also teamed up with celebrated restaurant owners — Gran Vía with Jesús Santos, a specialist of Basque cuisine, and Gran Madrid with the Sandoval brothers, who own a Michelin-starred restaurant near Madrid.

While EuroVegas would have created thousands of jobs, it also generated criticism as a “Sin City” project, with opponents warning that by promoting gambling on such a large scale Spain might encourage criminal activities like prostitution and money laundering. The two Madrid newcomers have not drawn similar opposition, perhaps because they are minnows compared with the extravagant and giant casinos Mr. Adelson has sprawled across Las Vegas or Macau.

Mr. Adelson’s EuroVegas would have provided formidable competition for smaller Spanish operators. On the other hand, the Spanish companies anticipated that EuroVegas would help bolster the Spanish gambling sector as a whole and raise its international profile.

They also hoped to benefit from the same tax concessions that Mr. Adelson wanted to obtain for EuroVegas. Mr. Adelson scrapped his plans and turned his sights on opportunities in Asia after failing to win special tax benefits and an exemption from a nationwide ban on smoking in public spaces.

“We are now negotiating once more to get a better fiscal deal, but this time without the support of EuroVegas,” Mr. Olmedo Franco said.

The Madrid casinos want the authorities to cut the gambling tax to 20 percent from the current 45 percent. Ángel Ruiz de Apodaca, professor of administrative law at the University of Navarra, poured cold water on the casinos’ chances of winning major concessions.

“Mr. Adelson didn’t get the treatment that he wanted, so I don’t think that any special deal or fiscal advantages will be seen as acceptable for the new casinos either,” he said.

Both operators also face the risk that their downtown locations will hurt their existing casinos outside Madrid.

Eduardo Ladrón de Guevara, a Madrid fashion designer, said he would probably make regular visits to Gran Madrid rather than travel to the casino in Torrelodones, 29 kilometers outside Madrid. “This is a much more comfortable experience and you also don’t have to worry any longer about drinking and then finding a way to get home,” he said.


Just a year ago, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid was busy making it his mission to prove that Nevada Sen. Dean Heller was inept at the delicate art of culling votes for Internet poker legislation.

Now that there’s no Shelley Berkley candidacy to defend, though, Reid can’t stop singing praises for Heller’s prowess in reviving the online gaming debate.

“This was a very, very good hearing,” Reid said of a meeting Heller ran this morning in the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

“I helped him prepare for this,” Reid said.

But just because Reid and Heller are all smiles doesn’t mean online poker has a clear path through Congress.

While there is near-universal concern about the security of online gambling, not everyone believes that online poker should get a special carve-out if Congress tries to walk back the Obama administration’s 2011 interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act.

That interpretation, which validated online gaming within individual states, irrevocably changed the climate around Internet gambling — so much so that some online poker advocates, such as Rep. Joe Barton, have given up the fight.

Barton released a poker bill Tuesday that is silent on the question of the 1961 Wire Act.

That doesn’t sit well with Reid, who politely threw water on Barton’s idea in an interview with Nevada reporters Wednesday.

“I don’t want to denigrate anybody that’s trying to do something well,’ Reid said. “That’s not my approach, but at least it’s an approach.”

In draft Internet poker legislation Reid and Heller were trying to sell to their colleagues last Congress, they envisioned a full walk-back of the 1961 Wire Act to the point of declaring all transactions for online gambling illegal, save for those facilitating online poker games.


At the stroke of midnight Monday, a boycott of the poker room at Sheldon Adelson's Venetian began.

But virtually no change was visible Monday afternoon. Dozens of visitors crowded the tables.

The only sign of a boycott was online, where local poker pros took to blogs to rage over Adelson's aggressive campaign against online gambling. The disgruntled players appeared to be the only ones taking part in the five-day boycott.

"This isn’t a fight about profits," poker insider Nolan Dalla, who sparked the protest in a widely read blog post, wrote June 27. "It’s about making a statement. Let’s do whatever we can to create an empty poker room for five straight days."

While the Venetian's poker room was far from empty Monday, Dalla said the overwhelming response from the poker community made the boycott a personal victory in his mind.

“Frankly, I don’t think there is a metric to measure how effective the boycott will be,” Dalla said. "This was about awareness, and to that end, we have been successful.”

Ron Reese, spokesman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., declined to comment.

Dalla called for the boycott after Adelson described online gaming as “a societal train wreck waiting to happen” and launched a website urging lawmakers to vote against online gaming, which he argued “is not a good bet for the future of America.”

Dalla and other local poker pros contend that Adelson’s aversion to Internet gambling is counterproductive to Las Vegas and damaging to the industry.

“Las Vegas has the opportunity to be the New York City of online gambling,” said Frank Kasella, a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner from Tennessee who now lives in Las Vegas. “The way that city is successful financially, Las Vegas can be successful with online gambling.”

But for that to happen, gaming industry giants have to stand together to keep the city ahead of the competition, Kasella said. Adelson’s refusal to cooperate shows a lot about his character, he added.

A handful of poker pros vowed never to play at the Venetian again.

Shaun Deeb, a New York player with two final table appearances under his belt, said it has been frustrating to hear such a powerful man slinging negative opinions.

Adelson is "really attacking our growth as an industry," Deeb said.

Still, other players have been reluctant to follow Dalla’s lead.

Linda Johnson, who was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011, disapproves of the boycott.

“I can’t go along,” she wrote on Dalla's blog. “Moreover, I don’t want to see any of the employees hurt who work at the Venetian.”

Dalla contends the boycott doesn't threaten the local work force.

“Some people have questioned the impact of this boycott on working people,” Dalla said. “I want those people to consider the position Sheldon Adelson has taken. It could cost Nevada the thousands of jobs online gambling could create.”

Even with a boycott, Kasella doubts Adelson will change his tune.

But supporters will send their message nevertheless.

“We’re here," Kasella said. "We’re important. Help us make the business the best it can be for everybody.


Station Casinos has released a mobile sports wagering app.

Fresh off a successful field trial, Sports Connection Mobile is now available on smartphones and tablets.

The app offers Boarding Pass rewards points for every dollar a gambler bets. The points can be used at all Station properties, including the Fiestas and Wildfire Gaming.

A player can link the free Sports Connection account to multiple wireless devices and cash out at several properties. In line with state law, Sports Connection users can access the app anywhere within the state of Nevada.

In order to enroll, all players must be 21 or older and first sign up in a Station Casinos sports book, or at the El Cortez with a valid identification and $50 deposit.

The minimum bet is $5, and accounts may be replenished with cash, credit or debit cards. Sports Connection Mobile allows players to bet parlays as well as straight bets, teasers, prop bets, round robins and in-game bets.

“After going through a comprehensive field trial through the Nevada Gaming Control Board, we are thrilled that we received final approval from gaming and excited to offer this convenient and safe sports betting app to all Nevada sports book players,” Art Manteris, vice president of sports book operations at Station Casinos, said in a statement.


Station Casinos has bought and closed a pair of popular Southern Nevada bars to open new Wildfire Casinos.

The locals casino operator has shut down the Lift Bar, a popular joint at 3045 S. Valley View Blvd., and Doc Hollidays in Henderson’s Anthem neighborhood.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently approved both acquisitions, according to Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson.

Station will hold a grand opening ceremony Saturday at the former site of Doc Hollidays, 2551 Anthem Village Drive. Because the site is in a restricted gaming area, the new Wildfire Casino there will offer 15 slot machines, dining and a bar.

The 5,000-square-foot Lift Bar made its final last call Wednesday night. Station plans to open Wildfire later this month, offering 35 slot machines, dining and a bar. Station has four other Wildfire locations in the Las Vegas Valley.

The main difference between Wildfire Casinos and other Station properties, such as Palace Station or Texas Station, is size. The Wildfire Casinos have fewer slot machines and no table games, no hotels and more limited dining options.


The M Resort has closed its poker room to make space for a new slot tournament area.

The resort previously held its slot tournaments in a conference-style ballroom, but players were unhappy with the lack of space, according to Rina Foster, an M Resort spokeswoman.

The players “demanded” the change, Foster said.

M Resort's monthly invitational tournaments average 800 guests between video poker and reel games, and the next slot tournament is scheduled for the end of August.

The new slots area will open next month, but it’s unclear what it will look like or how many slots the area will offer.

“We’re currently reconfiguring the room and don’t have an exact layout determined,” Foster said, “so I don’t yet know the number of slots we’ll have in there.”

While officials have no plans to reopen the poker room, the resort will continue to host poker tournaments and events in the future. The next poker tournament is the second-annual Hollywood Poker Open Championship, operated by Penn National Gaming and slated for June 2014.

The last Hollywood Poker open generated $1.4 million, attracting more than 600 players.