Wind Creek Hospitality to Buy Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem for $1.3 Billion
Wow, Sheldon Adelson must really not want to have his company involved in online gambling, not even begrudgingly. On Thursday, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced that it has agreed to sell Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Wind Creek Hospitality for $1.3 billion. Wind Creek is an affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama.
Sands Bethlehem will be the tenth property in Wind Creek’s portfolio. Wind Creek owns three Alabama properties branded with the Wind Creek name: Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Montgomery, and Wind Creek Wetumpka. In the U.S., it also owns Wa She Shu Casino in Gardnersville, Nevada, Pensacola Greyhound Track and Poker Room in Florida, Creek Entertainment Gretna in Florida, and Mobile Greyhound Park (Alabama). Abroad, the company owns Renaissance Aruba and Renaissance Curacao.
In a press release, Stephanie Bryan, Tribal Chair and CEO of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, said:
The quality of the property and dedication of the team members to genuinely engage with customers was evident from the first time we visited the property. 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. We are proud of our ability to become valued partners with communities surrounding our Wind Creek Hospitality properties.
It sounds, from the press release, like the impact of the sale on the staff of Sands/Wind Creek Bethlehem will be minimal. Casino employees should all remain in place, though you never know if some higher corporate positions may become redundant (this latter is my speculation).
In terms of revenue, Sands Bethlehem was the second-largest casino in Pennsylvania last year (Parx Casino was narrowly ahead at number one), bringing in $540 million in gambling revenue. Even with that success, it was on the low end of Las Vegas Sands’ properties, a group of casinos highlighted by the Venetian in Las Vegas. Wind Creek is dwarfed by Las Vegas Sands; the Bethlehem property jumps to the top of Wind Creek’s portfolio.
In the press release, Sheldon Adelson tooted his own horn:
Sands Bethlehem has become one of the leading regional entertainment and gaming destinations in the United States and we are extremely proud of the positive contributions the property has made for Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley and Eastern Pennsylvania. We are pleased to have built a strong foundation that can be the basis for the property’s future success and more importantly, we are proud to have delivered on our promise of bringing thousands of good paying jobs, generating significant economic impact and revitalizing a site of sentimental and historical importance.
As readers likely well know, Sheldon Adelson is online poker’s public enemy number one, vowing to do “whatever it takes” to not only stop the spread of online poker in the United States, but to eliminate it completely. Last year, online gambling became legal in Pennsylvania and of course, Sands Bethlehem was one of the online casinos to oppose it. It was not known if Sands would apply for an online gaming license or hold firm on Adelson’s beliefs, risking falling behind its competition.
But now Adelson doesn’t need to worry about it. Now, we don’t know if Wind Creek wants to offer online gambling, but if we had to guess, we would guess that it does. After all, if you are going to enter the Pennsylvania market for $1.3 billion, it would be weird not to pony up a few more million to get an online gambling license. The Morning Call reports that the sale isn’t expected to be finalized until the end of this year or even early next year, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Sands acquire a license in the meantime and then transfer it (or however that works) to Wind Creek.
I joked earlier that this was a way for Sheldon Adelson to avoid having to offer online gambling, but in all seriousness, Sands had been looking to sell the Bethlehem property for a while. In early March 2017, Sands Bethlehem’s President, Mark Juliano, sent an e-mail to the casino’s employees informing them that it looked like the company had found a buyer for the casino.
“We have been told today that Sands Bethlehem has a potential buyer; it is a sole buyer interested in purchasing the property,” wrote Juliano. “The sale is not imminent and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done before a sale is final.”
The rumored purchaser at that time was MGM Resorts International. Either that was incorrect or the deal fell through.