The Sands Bethlehem casino is the largest casino in Pennsylvania and the most profitable casino in the state. Las Vegas Sands Corp which owns the Sands Bethlehem casino is also the biggest casino operator in the world and announced in 2016 that it has plans to invest close to $90 million to carry out a massive expansion project at the Sands Bethlehem.
Expansion Facilities
The company wanted to increase the facilities on the north side of the casino and add around 100,000 square feet of space that would be home to 380 slot machines, 81 gaming tables and 2 new restaurants. The Sands casino applied for construction permits and closed the sides of the facility where work was supposed to begin at the start of 2017. Bethlehem’s Community and Economic Development granted the construction permits but state that Sands officials were yet to collect the permits and construction work is yet to commence.
The Sands Bethlehem facility was built at a cost of around $800 million, making it the costliest casino in Pennsylvania till date. The casino brought in more than $500 million in revenues in 2016 and attracts around 9 million visitors on average each year. The casino is also the only facility in Pennsylvania to have a concert facility, a hotel with 300 rooms and an outlet mall. Sands Bethlehem also provides employment to nearly 2,500 workers and the new expansion project was expected to add an additional 250 rooms.
Potential Sale
The fact that the Sands Bethlehem project is on hold comes as no surprise as there has been a lot of talk of a possible sale. There is speculation that Las Vegas Sands Corp has plans to sell its Sands Bethlehem casino to MGM Resorts, which is the second largest casino operator in the world. Sands Corp is looking to expand its presence internationally while MGM Resorts is looking to expand its presence domestically, making the sale of the Bethlehem casino a win-win for both companies.
So far Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts have not released any official information confirming the potential sale but there are reports that Mark Juliano, the chief executive officer of Sands Bethlehem had sent his staff an official communication informing them of a potential sale. Back in March 2017, the Morning Call newspaper reported that the two companies had made a principal agreement and the sale amount was in the region of $1.3 billion. Should the two companies proceed with the sale, it could take a minimum of 6 months for all the paper work to be completed and the sale to be finalized.
Lengthy Acquisition Process
Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez is disappointed that the expansion project has been put on hold but stated that understands the reasons from a business perspective. The Mayor has called on MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren to meet with him, should he be in the Bethlehem area.
Gaming analysts have stated that the two companies are spending a significant amount of time studying their respective financial reports before proceeding with a filing that will be made to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. This is the process that must be followed for the gambling license to be transferred, a process that could take a number of months to be finalized. Doug Harbach, a representative for the gaming board stated that as of now the Sands Corp or MGM Resorts have not made any such filing.
Poker Players Disappointed
Poker players who made the Sands Bethlehem their home are also disappointed as they were looking forward to the new poker room that was part of the expansion project. This is because the poker tables at present are located in the center of the gaming floor and players find it hard to concentrate with all the slot machines and blaring music around.
The expansion project was expected to have been completed before the end of 2017 but considering the fact that work has not commenced and the potential sale could take a minium of 6 months, it is highly unlikely that a new poker room would be on the cards in 2017.
Should MGM Resorts complete the purchase, there is no guarantee that MGM will proceed with the expansion project or abandon the idea all together.

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