Wind Creek Casino Seeks Retail Sportsbook Approval As Reopening Preps Continue

Posted on May 5, 2020

Business will be different at Wind Creek Bethlehem once COVID-19 restrictions ease, and not just with continuing distancing, sanitizing precautions, and limits on crowding, which will be commonplace across all of the state’s one dozen casinos.

Wind Creek is finally moving to open a retail sportsbook. The casino is the only sizable gambling property – 140,000 square feet of gaming space – without a retail book in Pennsylvania.

That leaves only the tiny Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in southwestern PA that hasn’t filed a sports wagering petition. At just 69,000 square feet for everything, there’s not much space for additions at the rural and isolated Lady Luck.

Wind Creek pulls patrons from NYC and North Jersey

But Wind Creek pulls patrons from Metro Manhattan, as well as the eastern border of PA, which would seem to make it a natural for a sportsbook.

Wind Creek had partnered up earlier in the year with Scientific Games Corporation and Betfred to open their in-house book, but there’s been no real movement since February. That is, until a recent filing with PA regulators.

No date yet set for Wind Creek sports betting

When approval will happen remains unanswered.

There is no set date for a review by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

Late summer, before the NFL season starts, was previously mentioned as the target. But that was before the virus disruption.

Many specifics, such as its financial projections, hiring plans, and projected opening remain confidential information despite a five-page petition.

No request for an online book so far

The filed document did not seek online sports betting.

A Wind Creek sportsbook launch would make it the 14th retail sport betting location in the state.

If they apply for an online book, they would be the tenth in the state.

Casino to reopen with invitations and reservations

At the same time they are making sports wagering plans, the casino is working on a reservation system to limit patron access upon reopening their doors.

When the ban on going to casinos is lifted, you’ll need an invitation during Wind Creek’s soft open, reports the Allentown Morning Call.

Jay Dorris, Wind Creek’s President and CEO laid out reopening precautions in a recent letter. Many casinos are expected to follow suit with similar limits on crowds.

Wind Creek continues paying employees amid steep revenue decline

Wind Creek voluntarily closed March 15, just before the state ordered all of the gambling halls shuttered.

The facility, which the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ company Wind Creek Hospitality bought last May for $1.3 billion, is one of the few PA casinos which have paid idle employees during the shutdown.

The Native American-owned casino is paying its roughly 2,500 workers and maintaining benefits through the end of May. And it paid host fees of $2.5 million to Bethlehem and Allentown despite the state granting a deferral.

And while virus closures have hit every gambling venue in PA, the drop was most precipitous at Wind Creek.

Total gambling revenue last month was $14.7 million, down an astounding 71% from about $51 million a year earlier.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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