[toc]Sands Bethlehem Casino is already one of top-performing Pennsylvania casinos. The $90 million expansion was supposed to cement its status as the state’s biggest casino. However, now those plans are on hold while owners negotiate a potential sale to MGM Resorts.
Sands announced expansion plans last year
After filing paperwork in September, Sands officially announced expansion plans in December. The plan included almost 60,000 square feet in additional gaming space, new restaurants, and 1,000 new gaming seats.
The expansion was good news for locals, who looked forward to the revenue boost. However, taxation issues and an unwillingness to voluntarily continue paying the $10 million annual casino fee jeopardized the local government’s take, expansion or not.
Expansion halted in wake of potential MGM sale
This week, the Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez told the Allentown Morning Call he believes the sale is on hold:
“It’s my understanding that the expansion is on hold. We understand. It’s business. But I certainly hope that whether it’s Sands or MGM, the owner goes forward with the expansion when the sale talks are over. It’s a significant project.”
Representatives from neither Sands nor MGM would not confirm Donchez’s remarks. Both casino companies remain mum on the rumored $1.3 billion sale of the Pennsylvania casino. The two properties are likely in the due diligence phase of a deal.
After that, it could still take another six months for Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to vet MGM.Even though MGM is a reputable national casino company, it would still need to be evaluated by the state since it is new to Pennsylvania.
What would MGM takeover mean for Pennsylvania gamblers?
This new development may sound like bad news. However, even if the expansion gets called off, MGM ownership could be good for Pennsylvania gamblers.
For example, the casino may not get physical expansion, but online casino expansion would be on the table. Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson staunchly opposes to online gambling. Meanwhile, MGM is launching real money online offerings in New Jersey.
If the deal goes through, MGM would not be throwing up any roadblocks to legislate and regulate online casinos in the state. Sands, on the other hand, would almost certainly stall any online progress.
Additionally, customers at Sands Bethlehem would get an arguably better rewards program with a national scope. MGM’s M life rewards offers cashback deals and players can use points at any MGM property in the country. The MySands program does not offer cash back and is exclusive to the property.
Finally, even though the area stands to lose money and jobs without an expansion, MGM could be more open to paying the $10 million the local government desperately needs to get by.