Cordish plans casino project near Madrid

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Nsh­er­man@balt­sun.com

shop­ping out­lets, din­ing, en­ter­tain­ment venues for the­ater and com­edy, and of­fice space.

The project, dubbed Live Re­sorts Madrid, would be the first of its kind in Europe, bring­ing a Las Ve­gas-style ex­pe­ri­ence to one of the most vis­ited cities in the world, Cordish said.

“I’ve never been more con­fi­dent that there’s a mar­ket for this,” he said Thurs­day. “The dif­fi­culty was putting it to­gether.”

It took about three years for the firm to as­sem­ble the land for the project, a task that in­volved ne­go­ti­at­ing with hun­dreds of prop­erty own­ers, Cordish said. He com­pared it to the as­sem­bly un­der­taken by James W. Rouse for Columbia. (In size it is more di­rectly com­pa­ra­ble to Port Cov­ing­ton, which is about 260 acres.)

He de­clined to say how much the firm had spent ac­quir­ing the land, which is cur­rently un­de­vel­oped.

Part­ner Joe Wein­berg, who was in Spain for the an­nounce­ment Thurs­day, told re­porters there that the firm hopes to get the go-ahead from the re­gional govern­ment in the next five or six months.

Lo­cal lead­ers ap­peared to be open to the pro­posal, which would be lo­cated in the Tor­res de la Alameda dis­trict, ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the Span­ish news­pa­per El Pais. It’s about 25 min­utes from the in­ter­na­tional air­port.

“I want to be cau­tious, but it looks good,” Cristina Ci­fuentes, pres­i­dent of the Co­mu­nidad de Madrid, the re­gional govern­ment, told the pa­per.

Most Eu­ro­pean casi­nos are small op­er­a­tions, gen­er­at­ing an av­er­age of $11.3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port by Price­wa­ter­house Cooper, ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties for in­te­grated re­sort casi­nos in Europe. The firm con­cluded that there is an op­por­tu­nity for a gam­ing re­sort at the scale of Las Ve­gas or Ma­cau, not­with­stand­ing po­ten­tial reg­u­la­tory and de­vel­op­ment pit­falls.

Sev­eral sim­i­lar pro­pos­als in Spain have stalled, in­clud­ing one pushed by Shel­don The Cordish Com­pa­nies is sub­mit­ting a pro­posal in Madrid to de­velop the first Span­ish in­te­grated gam­ing and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict. Land has been ac­quired for the project, and the cost of com­plet­ing it is es­ti­mated at more than $2 bil­lion. Adel­son’s Las Ve­gas Sands, which aban­doned a mas­sive “EuroVe­gas” pro­posal out­side Madrid in 2013.

“It’s clear that there is a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity to im­ple­ment the IRC model in Europe, and do it suc­cess­fully. The eco­nomic con­di­tions are right, the fun­da­men­tals are strong, and the con­sumers are there,” the au­thors of the re­port con­cluded.

Cordish Cos., founded by Cordish’s grand­fa­ther in 1910, has projects across the United States. Its Mary­land Live ven­ture is Mary­land’s big­gest casino, gen­er­at­ing more than $550 mil­lion in rev­enue through Oc­to­ber this year.

While the firm has sev­eral U.S. projects in the works, in­clud­ing plans for a casino in Philadel­phia, Cordish said op­por­tu­ni­ties for do­mes­tic gam­ing projects are be­com­ing rarer.

The firm is also ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in Canada and Asia, he said.

Some re­stric­tions on gam­bling op­er­a­tions in the Madrid area were lifted amid the ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Las Ve­gas Sands project. Cordish said the new op­por­tu­nity piqued the firm’s in­ter­est.

“There isn’t in Europe any­thing like what we’re do­ing, so we thought it was worth the ef­fort and the money and the time,” he said.

The com­pany es­ti­mates that the re­sort would draw more than 675,000 peo­ple in its first year. The project would also cre­ate more than 56,000 to­tal per­ma­nent and con­struc­tion jobs and gen­er­ate more than $4 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity over five years.

The re­sort would be pri­mar­ily ori­ented to­ward Eu­ro­pean tourists, who — un­like Amer­i­cans — aren’t nec­es­sar­ily look­ing for an au­then­tic Old World ex­pe­ri­ence while on va­ca­tion, Cordish said.

“If you live over there, you’re al­ready used to cob­ble­stone streets,” he said. “They’re go­ing to come visit this.”

The first phase would in­clude a ho­tel, gam­ing and re­tail. It likely would take at least a decade to fully build out the de­vel­op­ment, which would be pri­vately funded, Cordish said.

The project is ex­pected to in­clude more than 1 mil­lion square feet of re­tail; about 275,000 square feet of con­ven­tion and meet­ing space; about 450,000 square feet of of­fices; about 125,000 square feet of gam­ing and 200,000-square feet of the­aters, com­edy clubs, con­cert halls and the like. It would be an­chored by a cen­tral plaza.

Some Span­ish part­ners al­ready have a small stake in the project, but Cordish said the firm still is de­cid­ing about whether and how it might work with part­ners on the plans.

Cordish said the chal­lenges of as­sem­bling a site that large have blocked the emer­gence of a ma­jor re­sort in Europe be­fore.

“It doesn’t ex­ist, in my opin­ion, not be­cause it won’t work,” he said. “It doesn’t ex­ist be­cause peo­ple can’t put to­gether the land mass.”

CORDISH COS.

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