Sands Bethlehem To Be Sold To Alabama Tribe for $1.3BN

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Sands Bethlehem To Be Sold To Alabama Tribe for $1.3BN

On Thursday, Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVSC) announced that it had agreed to sell the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania for $1.3 billion, with its purchaser named as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama. The deal must now receive a green light by Pennsylvania’s gambling regulator before going ahead, which could take up to a year, but in the meantime Sands Bethlehem President Brian Carr said that the sale would not have any bearing on the property’s ongoing operations.

In addition, Sands Bethlehem represents one of Las Vegas Sands Corp’s smallest properties, with its other integrated resorts including ones located in Nevada (The Palazzo, The Venetian); Singapore (the Marina Bay Sands); and Macau (The Venetian, The Plaza, Sands Cotai Central, The Parisian, Sands Macao).

Opened in 2009

The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is built on the site of the former headquarters of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which operated from 1857 before eventually going bankrupt in 2003. Its Bethlehem plant was then sold to Sands BethWorks in 2007, with the construction of a brand new $800 million casino completed in 2009, with later additions including a 300-bedroom hotel, shopping mall, restaurants and theater.

Boon to Region

The venue  is one of state’s largest casino operations, and last year offered employment to more than 2,500 people, and generated total revenue of $550 million from its slots and table games. Moreover, the Sands Bethlehem has had a significant impact on the local economy, including drawing in tourists from New Jersey and New York, and praising the positive impact that the entertainment and gaming resort has had on the region, Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson stated that he is “extremely proud of the positive contributions the property has made for Bethlehem.. and eastern Pennsylvania.”

Regulatory Approval Needed

As mentioned, the property’s sale may take up to a year to complete, with official approval first needed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Amongst the key concerns of the regulatory board will be the source of the funds being used to purchase the casino, and whether its new owners will have the capability to run such a huge casino.

Wind Creek Hospitality

Looking to buy the Sands Bethlehem is an American Indian tribe from Alabama called the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which already owns a number of other gambling interests through its company called Wind Creek Hospitality. These include three casinos in Alabama, two in the Caribbean, one in Nevada, and one in Tennessee, as well other holdings in greyhound and horse racing tracks across the country.

However, the Sands Bethlehem is on a much larger scale than any other property operated by the tribe, and as Stephanie Bryan, tribal CEO of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, explains it will help secure the long term interests of the tribe. That said, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will now be vetting the tribe to ensure that it is up to the task of running such a massive operation.

Wind Creek Hospitality, for instance, only runs Class II games (bingo or pull tab machines) at its Alabama casinos, with the company subsequently able to keep all of its revenue because of tribal tax exemptions laws. This then raises the question as to whether the tribe will have the know how to manage table game and slot operations at Sands Bethlehem. If required, however, they can obtain assistance in this regard from the casino’s current management team which are likely to stay on after the purchase in order to help familiarize the tribe with the new market.

Recent purchases made by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians includes the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino and the Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino last October, and in 2017 they also announced a plan to build a new casino on land they acquired in D’Iberville, Mississipp back in 2016. Looking ahead, tribal chair Stephanie Bryan, stated:

“The addition of this fantastic team and property to our portfolio furthers our desire to secure a long and prosperous future for our tribe. 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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