Many patrons of the Pennsylvania casino Wind Creek Bethlehem were likely surprised today when they walked in to play some blackjack, only to see the blackjack tables closed. Same for craps, three card poker, roulette, and every other manually dealt table on the casino floor. This is because beginning at 6:00am, all non-electronic table games were taken offline as the casino put new, Wind Creek-branded chips in play. Everything is expected to open back up at about 10:00pm tonight.
The chip change is part of the property’s transition from Sands Bethlehem to Wind Creek Bethlehem. Sands Bethlehem, owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., was acquired by Wind Creek Hospitality, an affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, for $1.3 billion in March 2018. Casino management had told its employees a year prior that a buyer had been found, but it was expected to be MGM, not Wind Creek. Sands Bethlehem, the second largest casino in Pennsylvani by revenue, immediately became the giant of Wind Creek’s portfolio.
Wind Creek also operates Wind Creek-branded three casinos in Alabama, as well as other-branded casinos in Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Curacao, and Aruba.
The sale of the casino was completed in late May of this year.
The branding turnaround began immediately. One of the most daunting tasks was removing the 3,187 square-foot “Sands” sign on the face of the old ore crane at the Bethlehem Works site and replacing it with 3,880 square-foot sign containing the “Wind Creek” name and company logo. Locals have been having fun with it, as the letters are not going up in order, making it look like a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle. The order is not random, though, but rather planned in order to make installation easier.
Next week, there will be two more gaming outages. On Monday, August 26th, about 1,200 slot machines will be shut down while the casino’s systems are upgraded. Another 2,000 or so will remain in service. Then, beginning at midnight, the slot FREE play will be out of service for system upgrades. They are expected to get back online by about 2:00pm Tuesday.
Total rebranding efforts will cost $15 million.
One of the big, long-term plans for the property is to turn the former Bethlehem Steel site’s No. 2 Machine Shop into a 300,000 square-foot adventure and water park with a 400-room hotel. The project is expected to cost $250 million. $100 million of the funding used to buy Sands Bethlehem was earmarked for the project, but Wind Creek is still seeking a cash injection for the rest.
In the meantime, Wind Creek does have $90 million for a smaller project to build a 276-room hotel on the property. In addition, it will build out 42,000 more square feet of meeting space. Nothing has happened with this yet, as it still needs to get the approval of the local government.
Wind Creek Bethlehem will eventually have online gambling, including poker, casino games, and sports betting. The irony of this is that Sheldon Adelson, who, as mentioned is the Chief Executive of the casino’s former parent company, is online gambling’s enemy number one in the United States.