The Sands Casino in Bethlehem Is Planning an Expansion with a Dedicated Poker Room
The Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is planning a $40 million expansion. The Sands Bethlehem is one of the nation’s most lucrative table game operators. The casino is the most profitable in Pennsylvania, which now raises more money from gambling than any other state, besides Nevada.
The planned expansion would give Sands Bethlehem the largest gaming space in the state. The expanded gaming floor would be the size of two football fields. The floor would contain an all-new poker room. New restaurants would be added to the property.
Plans Filed with Bethlehem’s City Government
In the plan filed with Bethlehem’s Department of Community and Economic Development, the Las Vegas Sands Corp calls for a 100,000-square-foot expansion with 35,000-square feet devoted to more gaming space. That would include blackjack, craps, and roulette.
Though the plans are known to have been filed with a city department, Sands executives are unwilling to confirm they propose an expansion. Sands CEO Mark Juliano said, “We’re not prepared to comment on any plans.”
$40 Million Amount Is Supposition
The proposal filed with the city of Bethlehem did not mention the $40 million investment. Instead, a 2015 audit of the Sands Casino’s bookkeeping suggested the $40 million amount.
The audit’s line-item said only “Sands table games expansion“. That would not be a reference to the inclusion of 150 electronic table games that were installed on the gaming floor. The investment on those machines was $5 million, so something far grander is in mind for the 2017 expansion.
Rumors of a Poker Room Addition
Since then, word has been spreading that the casino would add a dedicated poker room. Many casinos devote a separate room to poker, because the players want to gamble on Texas Hold’em in peace and quiet. That appears to be the thinking with the Las Vegas Sands Corp, which ultimately makes the decisions on investments.
Scott Correll on the Need for a Poker Room
Scott Correll a former professional poker player who lives in Bethlehem and still plays cards at the Sands Casino’s poker tables, explained the thinking of players fairly well. Correll said of the Sands Casino’s so-called poker room, “It’s not even a room. When you’re trying to win a $2,000 or $3,000 pot, you don’t want to hear slot machines going off or some guy screaming about his roulette number coming up. I’d much rather play in a dedicated room without all the distractions.”
With a dedicated poker room, players from Philadelphia likely would patronize the casino more often. Sands Bethlehem is likely to have stiffer competition in the coming years, as a couple of projects approved by the Philadelphia City Council eventually will complete. The $450 million Live! Casino is still facing legal troubles, but most people assume the joint project by Cordish Cos. of Baltimore and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment is going to happen. It should open in 2017 or 2018, assuming it surmounts a legal challenge by a group whose plans were turned down.
Investment in Pennsylvania Gaming
The Bethlehem Sands Casino might get overlooked by many when it comes to Las Vegas Sands Corp’s vast global holdings. The Venetian Macau in China or the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore are more lavish, higher-grossing gaming houses. The Venetian Las Vegas and the Palazzo are located on the Las Vegas Strip. Yet the Bethlehem Sands has been a huge success. As the largest gaming company in the world, LVS has the money to invest.
A number of troublesome prospects were cleared in recent times, which probably helps with the investment. State legislators wanted to legalize online gambling and daily fantasy sports in the state. That initiative was tabled for another year recently, giving LVS some assurance that a rival form of gaming won’t take customers away from their casino.
Another initiative would have allowed gaming machines at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants in Pennsylvania. Once again, this proposal was defeated in the state legislature, meaning Bethlehem Sands would not see increased competition from other operators in the state — however small those operations might be.
Also, it is becoming clear that a North Jersey casino referendum is likely to fail in neighboring New Jersey. Those casinos would have siphoned off customers from New York City, who would have gambled at casinos within a few miles of their residences, instead of in another state. Sands Bethlehem is famous for arranging 50 busloads of gamblers several times a week from New York City.
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