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Desert area in Spain to house Las Vegas-style casino complex

Spain's desert area will give refuge to "Sin City."

A massive Las Vegas-style casino complex featuring bullfights and replicas of the Pentagon, the Egyptian pyramids and Roman temples will be built in an area outside Zaragoza, a city in northeastern Spain, officials said.

The Aragon regional government announced Thursday that it had signed a preliminary agreement to jump-start the ambitious 2,000-hectare (5,000-acre) project in the Los Monegros region, east of Zaragoza.

It will have 32 casinos, five theme parks, around 70 hotels - including one modeled after the Pentagon that will be at an espionage theme park called "Spyland" - and a bullring, officials said.

The complex, which will be called "Gran Scala," is estimated to require some 17 billion EUR(US$25 billion) in investment and is expected to be ready by 2015.

Spanish media reported that it would be the second-largest casino complex in the world after Las Vegas, also known as "Sin City" and "The Entertainment Capital of the World."

Aragon regional government President Marcelino Iglesias announced the signing of a draft agreement Wednesday with a consortium of foreign firms called International Leisure Development.

"This is an important day for Aragon. Gran Scala is a great hope," Iglesias' deputy Jose Angel Biel told a reception. "We couldn't let the opportunity pass."

The complex is expected to attract up to 25 million visitors a year, authorities say.

Spain, as one of the world's top three tourist destinations, attracts just over 50 million visitors a year.

Biel told leading daily El Pais the first brick would be laid next Sept. 16, the day after the 2008 World's Fair finishes in Zaragoza.

The Gran Scala project has been backed by most of Spain's mainstream political parties except the United Left, which has described it as "a barbarity" because of the negative environmental consequences the complex may have.

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