The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) finally approved the change of Sands Bethlehem’s license to Poarch Creek Indians Gaming Authority (PCI Gaming).

PCI Gaming operates under the Wind Creek Hospitality Brand. The $1.3 billion sale of Sands Bethlehem also requires Wind Creek to pay a change-of-control fee of $3.75 million to PGCB’s coffers.

Faster than a speeding bullet

Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris projects the transition to occur very quickly. Specifically, the sale might conclude as early as this week. In addition, $15 million has been earmarked for rebranding expenditures. Dorris expects rebranding to be complete within 90 days.

Artist rendering of Wind Creek (Wind Creek/Contributed)

Bigger and bigger: more hotel rooms and meeting space

To begin with, Wind Creek presented an expansion plan to PGCB  for $90 million included in its acquisition funding.

Currently, amenities include:

  • 282 hotel rooms
  • Over 183,000 square footage of casino floor space
  • 3,000 slots and electronic table games
  • 200 table games
  • Multiple food and beverage vendors
  • A 150,000 square foot retail mall
  • 27,000 square feet of convention space

In two years, another 276 hotel rooms and 42,000 square feet of meeting space will be completed.

Wind Creek stated in its presentation that the current hotel space is 93% occupied. This means that potential hotel guests are turned away on a weekly basis. While that is good news, Sands Bethlehem did decline by $7 million in conventions last year due to its meager meeting space.

Get ready for a new wild and wet adventure

Wind Creek has ambitious plans for the vacant and desolate No. 2 Machine Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site. Specifically, the site will transform into a 300,000 square foot adventure and water park. Also, this expansion includes another expansion of 400 hotel rooms.

Most importantly, the acquisition financing includes $100 million towards the revitalization of the Machine Shop. However, this project’s budget is $250 million. As a result, Wind Creek is actively soliciting investors for the remainder $150 million.

Make way for the online casino

Conditional for the sale of Sands Bethlehem to Wind Creek, Sands executives applied for and gained approval from the PGCB for a PA interactive gaming license in October 2018.

Currently, Wind Creek is actively seeking an online casino platform. The expectation is to finalize a partnership and launch the online casino within three months, but that is probably a lofty goal given how much work is involved. If they did meet that deadline, this time frame would fall directly in line with Dorris’ rebranding transition timeline.

Keep in mind that many PA operators have been working at an online product for almost a year and are still at risk of potentially missing the July 15 launch date.

Sports betting still in the works

Wind Creek aims to add PA sports betting to their casino. Admittedly, the process needs to commence.

Sands did not apply for a sports betting license. The company knew they were selling the property and sports betting applications do not have a deadline.

Now Wind Creek can move forward on sports betting, but first, it needs to finalize a partner. Once they have one though, they can move forward on applying for a $10 million license.

Cleaning up the underage gambling issues

In April, Sands was forced to pay out $120,000 in underage gambling fines. Historically, underage gambling is a recurring issue at Sands Bethlehem.

As anticipated, PGCB questioned Wind Creek ensuring a hard line is in place against underage gambling. In addition to current measures, facial recognition to match government ID along with hiring more employees is expected in the near future.