Pa. regulators unanimously OK $1.3B sale of Sands Casino

The Pa. Gaming Control Board has approved the sale of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem to Wind Creek Hospitality of Alabama. (Photo by Christopher Holland) –

After a presentation in which Wind Creek Hospitality pitched itself as a growing, but fiscally stable company that is highly active in the communities in which it operates, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control board approved the Alabama company’s purchase of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

The $1.3 billion sale is expected to close Friday.

One of the main concerns expressed by the board during the presentation was the relatively small number of table games that Wind Creek operates at its existing nine properties, where most of the games are electronic bingo and slots.

Wind Creek has about 75 table games in all, including poker tables, compared to 189 table games at the Bethlehem Sands.

Jay Dorris, president of PGI Gaming Authority of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians – operating as Wind Creek – said all nine of the senior managers at the Sands have signed contracts to stay on with Wind Creek, and they have the experience.

“The team that built it will maintain it,” Dorris told the board.

Brian Carr, president and COO of Sands, who will become president and COO of Wind Creek Bethlehem after the transition, expressed his enthusiasm for the deal.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us,” he said. “My entire team is here. We have lost absolutely no one. We’re excited for this.”

In addition to taking over the current property, Dorris said Wind Creek is looking to begin right away on building a hotel and event center, which will more than double the resort’s current hotel and event space.

The company has $190 million set aside for that work.

He said it is an investment in the growth of the property, noting that in its 10 years the Sands has had to turn away around $7 billion in events and conventions because it simply didn’t have enough room to host them.

The company also has plans to convert the former Bethlehem Steel Machine Shop 2 on the property to a third hotel along with an indoor adventure and water park at the cost of around $250 million.

Dorris said Wind Creek plans to attract investment partners to pitch in $150 million toward that price tag with Wind Creek investing the remaining $100 million.

While he said the company is committed to the plan, it depends on finding investment partners and there was a possibility changes could be made to the original proposal.

While Dorris said Wind Creek does not have any plans to change the casino floor, it is looking to add interactive online gaming. The Sands has already obtained the appropriate license and Dorris said Wind Creek is looking for a provider.

It is also considering sports wagering, but isn’t as far along in its plans for that and would need numerous approvals.

The board voted unanimously both for the petition for change of control and to issue a category 2 stand-alone casino license to PCI Gaming Authority LLC.