The Pennsylvania gambling industry is getting shaken up, as the Las Vegas Sands Corp. (headed by online poker enemy, Sheldon Adelson) announced last week that it has agreed to sell its Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem to Wind Creek Hospitality, an affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, for $1.3 billion.
About a year ago, Sands Bethlehem’s President, Mark Juliano, sent an e-mail to employees saying that the casino had found a buyer. That buyer was rumored to be MGM Resorts International, so it turning out to be Wind Creek and at that sale price, may have been a bit of surprise to many in the industry. The acquisition should elevate Wind Creek’s profile, too, as Sands Bethlehem goes from one of the smallest properties in the Las Vegas Sands portfolio to without question the largest on the Wind Creek roster. By revenue, it is the second largest casino in Pennsylvania.
Wind Creek is nowhere close to a household name in United States gaming, though it is fairly well-known in Alabama (Native American casinos tend to be regional). There are three Wind Creek casinos in that state: Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Montgomery, and Wind Creek Wetumpka. The company also operates several other non-Wind Creek-branded properties; one in Alabama, two in Florida, one in Nevada, one in Curacao, and one in Aruba.
Stephanie Bryan, Tribal Chair and CEO of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, said in a press release:
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.
Sheldon Adelson, coughing a cloud of dust, spoke about how great his company is and how he set Wind Creek up for success:
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.
This does bring into question what Sands/Wind Creek will do about securing an online gambling license in Pennsylvania. Sands, naturally, is strongly against online gambling, but it was unknown if the company would’ve have still applied for a license so as not to fall behind in the market. One would think Wind Creek would get into online gambling – after all, it would be odd to spend $1.3 billion on the casino and pass on internet gaming – but the deal isn’t going to be completed until later this year. Speculation is that Sands may apply for a license in the meantime to essentially hold Wind Creek’s spot.