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Alabama Indian tribe buys Sands Bethlehem for $1.3B

Updated March 8, 2018 - 4:35 pm

An Alabama Indian tribe with diverse casino holdings, including a property in Gardnerville, is buying the Sands Bethlehem in eastern Pennsylvania for $1.3 billion from Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Representatives of Wind Creek Hospitality, an affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama, said Thursday they are acquiring the property with a 139,000-square-foot casino, 300 hotel rooms and an adjacent outlet shopping mall.

The companies didn’t set a closing date for the sale, but said it would be subject to customary regulatory reviews.

Reports have long circulated that Las Vegas Sands was preparing to sell the property that opened in May 2009 on the site of the defunct Bethlehem Steel plant.

Sands Bethlehem’s casino floor features 3,000 slot machines and 200 table games and the property also has three restaurants affiliated with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse — Emeril’s Chop House, Emeril’s Fish House and Burgers and More by Emeril.

Wind Creek’s nine properties

It will join Wind Creek Hospitality’s group of nine casinos and racetracks located mostly in the South and the Caribbean.

The company’s list of properties includes the Wind Creek-branded Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka in Alabama; the Renaissance Aruba and Renaissance Curacao, which are branded affiliates of the Renaissance Las Vegas; the Pensacola Greyhound Track and Poker Room in Florida and the Mobile Greyhound Track in Alabama; and Creek Entertainment Gretna, a poker room in Gretna, Florida.

The company also operates the Wa She Shu Casino in Gardnerville in Northern Nevada.

Las Vegas Sands Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Patrick Dumont said use of the sale proceeds would “be consistent with the company’s long-held strategic direction when it comes to deploying capital.”

Sands Bethlehem President Brian Carr said in a statement issued Thursday that he expects a seamless transition to new ownership and that employee focus would not change “regardless of what the sign on the top of the building might read.”

For the tribe, Sands Bethlehem represents a diversification into a new market.

“The quality of the property and dedication of the team members to genuinely engage with customers was evident from the first time we visited the property,” Stephanie Bryant, tribal chair and CEO of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, said in a statement. “The addition of this fantastic team and property to our portfolio furthers our desire to secure a long and prosperous future for our tribe.”

Odd fit

While Sands Bethlehem is positioned as the premier regional gaming operation in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, many analysts viewed it as an odd fit for Las Vegas Sands with its megaresort presence on the Las Vegas Strip and as the dominant player in Macau and Singapore.

It has been the only U.S. property to maintain the Sands legacy name after the company imploded the Sands in Las Vegas to make way for The Venetian and Palazzo and the Sands Atlantic City was demolished.

The Sands name remains in Asia with the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Sands Macao, the first U.S. presence to open in China.

Las Vegas Sands stock closed up $3.58, 4.9 percent, to $76.62 a share and was unchanged in after-hours trading on volume about 1½ times the daily average.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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