Sands May Be Leaving Bethlehem, But The Casino Is Not Going Anywhere

Written By J.R. Duren on June 8, 2018 - Last Updated on October 17, 2022
calendar with license renewal post-it

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is in good standing with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), according to the seven-member panel who approved the renewal of their license.

“The seven-member Board determined that Sands Bethworks, LLC had fulfilled the obligations under its previously-approved casino operator’s license and therefore qualified to have its license renewed for a five-year period,” a press release from the PGCB said.

According to the press release, Sands employees, as well as local government officials, state police, and community groups provided testimony about Sands during a public hearing in Bethlehem in April.

Sands’ license is a Category 2 license, which is given to stand-alone casinos. The other major categories are casino-resorts (Category 3) and racinos (Category 1).

2018 an interesting year for Sands

Unfortunately for Sands, the news of their license renewal isn’t the biggest news story of the year for them.

This past February, they bungled an opportunity for a Category 4 license (satellite casino) when they bid and won a license they intended to build near Mount Airy Casino in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Turns out their site was within the 15-mile no-build zone that Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion law (Act 42) put in place for satellite casinos.

Once the PGCB recognized the error, they published a press release explaining what happened.

“Given that the location is non-conforming to Act 42’s requirements, the bid has been therefore invalidated and Executive Director (Kevin) O’Toole will proceed to consider the award for the fourth Category 4 casino auction to the second and only other bidder, Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc.”

Greenwood Gaming owns Parx Casino in Philadelphia. The license fell in their lap instead. Sands did not bid on any other satellite licenses.

Slots revenue up in May

While the satellite bungle was no doubt a downer for the casino, there has been some good news this year. In the most recent PGCB slots revenue report, Sands posted a 1.9-percent year-on-year gain compared to 2017.

Sands and its fellow top-three slots revenue-earners posted gains in May, steadying losses and mild gains that the mid-size revenue earners experienced.

The May gains were the second time in the past three months that Sands posted growth over the previous year. In March, the Bethlehem casino saw a 3.90-percent  jump over March 2016 slots revenue.

March brought big news of sale

In addition to posting modest slots gains, 2018 also brought a significant moment in the casino’s history. Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced it would be selling the casino to Wind Creek Hospitality, an Alabama-based company formed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

In an interview with The Morning Call, tribal chair and CEO Stephanie Bryan deemed the casino and its staff “fantastic”.

“The addition of this fantastic team and property to our portfolio furthers our desire to secure a long and prosperous future for our tribe,” she was quoted as saying. “We look forward to working with our new team members and the community to cement Wind Creek Bethlehem’s position as the premier entertainment destination in the Northeast.”

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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