Report: Sands Bethlehem (PA) Casino to be Sold

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Neither company has confirmed anything, but reports out of Pennsylvania last week have the Sands Bethlehem Casino on the verge of being sold to MGM Resorts International. According to The Morning Call, which cites two sources for its information, the deal for the Las Vegas Sands-owned casino would be worth $1.3 billion. A few weeks of “due diligence” are still necessary on both sides before a formal announcement of the deal can be made, sources tell The Morning Call.

One significant piece of evidence of the pending sale is a leaked e-mail from Sands Bethlehem President Mark Juliano to the casino’s employees in which he states, “We have been told today that Sands Bethlehem has a potential buyer; it is a sole buyer interested in purchasing the property. The sale is not imminent and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done before a sale is final.”

Other than the obvious significance the sale would have on the Pennsylvania casino landscape, swapping out one major gaming player in Sands for another in MGM – and at a very profitable property – one sizable impact the sale could have would be on the future of online poker in the Commonwealth.

There has been a major push to legalize and regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania in the last couple years; progress was made on a bill last year, but a toxic legislative environment prevented anything from getting done. Right now, though, things are looking up and Pennsylvania is expected to see a bill passes this year.

The elimination of Sands from Pennsylvania would mean that one obstacle to legalized online poker would be gone. The CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. is Sheldon Adelson, the bridge troll who is determined to do “whatever it takes” to stop online gambling in the United States. Adelson claims that he is out to protect children and problem gamblers (don’t you love the “won’t anybody think of the children” refrain?), but for years, it has been apparent that he is afraid that internet gambling will hurt his brick-and-mortar gambling business.

There are a dozen casinos in Pennsylvania; Sands, under Adelson, may be the only one that opposes online gambling. Now, just because one casino wouldn’t want it doesn’t mean that an online gambling bill wouldn’t pass, but it is always easier when all the stakeholders are on board. Plus, as we have seen on the federal level, Sheldon Adelson has the clout (read: money) to get politicians (read: Republicans) to listen to him. No, his Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has never gotten anywhere on Capitol Hill, but it has existed, and that means there has been a non-zero chance that online poker could be banned nationally. Additionally, its two flag bearers in Congress – Senator Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz – are two of the most powerful legislators in D.C., no matter how despicable they may be (though I will admit that Sen. Graham’s opposition of Donald Trump has warmed me to him slightly).

As mentioned, no official announcement has come from Sands or MGM regarding a potential deal. Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesperson Ron Reese told The Morning Call in a statement , “Las Vegas Sands is regularly approached about potential interest in various assets. The company has no announcement to make at this time. As always, we thank our dedicated team members for their hard work and professionalism.”

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