Is Sheldon Adelson Leaving Pennsylvania? Suitor For Sands Bethlehem Casino Emerges

Steve Ruddock March 3, 2017
Sands bethlehem leaving

The Morning Call’s Matt Assad reported that the Las Vegas Sands is considering selling its Pennsylvania casino in Bethlehem.

Assad’s reporting goes beyond standard rumors, as the potential sale comes from the email account of Sands Bethlehem President Mark Juliano and Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, who confirmed to the Morning Call that Juliano had shared the news with him.

“We have been told today that Sands Bethlehem has a potential buyer; it is a sole buyer interested in purchasing the property,” Juliano said in an email sent to employees and acquired by the Morning Call. “The sale is not imminent, and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done before a sale is final.”

Sands didn’t reveal who the potential buyer was. I’ve seen everyone from Boyd Gaming to Tropicana AC owner Carl Icahn as possible suitors. But any speculation at this point would be just that.

Not the first time Sands Bethlehem has been on the market

This isn’t the first time the property has been the subject of sale rumors. There have been no shortage of legitimate rumors over the years, most notably talks between Icahn and Las Vegas Sands in 2014.

In the end Sands held onto its Bethlehem casino.

One of these things is not like the other

Sands Bethlehem is one of the largest casinos in the state. It is just a touch behind Philadelphia’s Parx Casino when it comes to gaming revenue. Both of these things make Sands Bethlehem a profitable casino and a desirable property.

But, in the Adelson casino empire, Sands Bethlehem is something of an outlier.

The $800 million property is by no means a “local’s joint.” However, it pales in comparison to the company’s other destination casinos in terms of both size, cost and location.

Las Vegas Sands most notable casinos are all billion-dollar (as much as $8 billion) properties in international destination cities:

  • Venetian in Las Vegas ($1.5 billion)
  • Palazzo in Las Vegas ($1.6 billion)
  • Marina Bay Sands in Singapore ($8 billion)
  • Venetian in Macau ($2.4 billion)
  • Sands Cotai in Macau ($4 billion)
  • Parisian in Macau ($2.5 billion)

Recent developments may have lit a fire

In addition to the casino’s uniqueness amongst Adelson-owned casino properties, a string of events may have renewed Sands interest in offloading the property.

  • The opening of Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, N.Y. (two and a half hours away to the northwest) and Rivers Schenectady in Schenectady, N.Y. (three hours away to the northeast). Both of these new casinos will likely divert some current Sands customers located in southern New York. (And northern Pennsylvania in the case of Tioga Downs.)
  • Online gambling is on the verge of passing in Pennsylvania, something Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is wholeheartedly opposed to. When online gambling is passed in Pennsylvania, Sands’ abstention would place it a major competition deficit among Pennsylvania casinos.
  • Security guards at Sands Bethlehem successfully unionized, a first-of-its-kind occurrence at an Adelson-owned casino property. The unionization by the 146 security guards may have a domino effect on the other 2,400 or so Sands Bethlehem workers.
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