In Pennsylvania, casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corporation has reportedly halted the first stage of a planned $800 million redevelopment of its Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem as it continues negotiations to sell the venue to rival firm MGM Resorts International.
According to a report from the local The Morning Call newspaper, December saw Las Vegas Sands Corporation break ground on a 100,000 sq ft scheme that would have added two restaurants and a new poker room to the Northampton County venue while also expanding its casino with a further 380 slots and 81 gaming tables. The next month saw Las Vegas Sands Corporation begin preparatory work by applying for building permits from the Bethlehem Bureau Of Planning while closing exits and a parking lot on the side of the building where construction was to take place.
“We approved their building permits but they never came to pick them up,” Alicia Karner, the Director for Bethlehem’s Community And Economic Development Department, told the newspaper.
The Morning Call explained that it is no coincidence that the redevelopment scheme consequently never got off the ground as Las Vegas Sands Corporation soon after began negotiations with MGM Resorts International about the possibility of selling the Bethlehem casino. These talks first came to light in early-March after Mark Juliano, President for the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, sent an e-mail to workers explaining that his firm was in talks regarding a sale and the Las Vegas-based pair are now thought to be involved in a lengthy due diligence process that could take upwards of six months to complete.
“We have been told today that Sands [Casino Resort] Bethlehem has a potential buyer; it is a sole buyer interested in purchasing the property,” read the March e-mail from 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 Morning Call additionally reported that the pair has already agreed a price for the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, which currently offers 300 slots alongside some 200 gaming tables and collected revenues of over $500 million last year, of around $1.3 billion while gaining the approval of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for the transfer of the venue’s gambling license could take a further two months.
“It’s my understanding that the expansion is on hold,” Bethlehem mayor Robert Donchez told the newspaper. “We understand; it’s business. But I certainly hope that whether it’s [Las Vegas] Sands [Corporation] or MGM [Resorts International], the owner goes forward with the expansion when the sale talks are over. It’s a significant project.”
The Morning Call moreover reported that the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is the only casino in Pennsylvania to feature a 300-room hotel, an outlet mall and a concert venue and the property attracted some nine million visitors last year. The expansion scheme was to see its current workforce of around 2,500 employees increase by up to 250 while the rumored sale price of $1.3 billion would represent the biggest deal of its kind since the eastern state legalized casino gambling in 2004.
Donchez also told the newspaper that he had written to James Murren, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for MGM Resort International, to request a meeting should the casino boss ever visit Bethlehem but had yet to agree a definite date for any such encounter.
“I’m guessing this could take the rest of 2017,” Donchez told The Morning call.
Finally, the newspaper reported that the delay to the redevelopment project has moreover come as bad news to some poker players at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem as the venue’s dedicated poker room is currently located in the middle of the casino floor.
“With all the slot machines, the loud music and [public address] system, you can’t even hear yourself talk,” said Dave Howard, a Coopersburg-based poker plays that enjoys the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem up to three times a week, told The Morning Call. “We’ve been looking forward to getting our own room for a long time. I hope they still expand after the sale.”