The deal that just won’t close is a little closer to doing so.
The sale of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem from Sands Bethworks Gaming to PCI (Poarch Creek Indians) Gaming Authority will be the subject of a special meeting at 1 p.m. May 29 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Chairman David Barasch said at the start of the board’s meeting Wednesday.
Local officials last week hoped — and, in fact, expected — for the transaction to be taken up by the board Wednesday. When the agenda was released May 9, however, the Sands deal wasn’t on it, leaving it likely the change-of-control petition wouldn’t be considered until the board’s next meeting June 12.
But following an executive session Tuesday, the board decided on a special meeting later this month.
“If anybody’s been watching, we’ve been extremely busy lately, and we’re trying to keep things on track and at the same time give everybody full opportunity to be heard,” Barasch said on a day when the board held public hearings to renew the license of Parx Casino, hear Mohegan Sun Pocono’s sports wagering plan and listen to Mohegan’s proposal to modify its casino floor.
If all goes well at the May 29 meeting, Sands’ change of control could get approved that same day, paving the way for the $1.3 billion sale to PCI Gaming, which operates under the Wind Creek Hospitality brand, to close within a month. According to the state’s March 22 reply to the change-of-control petition, it’s possible the board could ask Wind Creek how it plans to handle an increasingly competitive Northeast gambling market and what it’s planning in regards to online gambling and sports betting offerings. In addition, the board is interested in how Wind Creek plans to address the recurring issue of underage patrons accessing Sands Bethlehem’s casino floor.
It was all the way back on March 8, 2018, when Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced it had reached a definitive agreement to sell its smallest property to Wind Creek. The deal realized Las Vegas Sands’ long-desired exit from Bethlehem and encouraged city officials that Wind Creek might redevelop more of the former Bethlehem Steel site, once the country’s largest brownfield.
In a visit to the casino Jan. 15, Wind Creek executives didn’t disappoint, announcing plans for a $90 million, 300-room hotel tower meant to complement the near-capacity, 282-room hotel already on site. In addition, Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris said the company has $100 million earmarked for the No. 2 Machine Shop, which could become an indoor water park, among other ideas being floated.
But the deal needs to close first.
On Friday -- before the board had scheduled the special meeting -- Wind Creek spokeswoman Magi Thomley Williams told The Morning Call that if the deal did not close by May 30, there could be additional fees to keep the company’s loan in place.
“We appreciate the board scheduling our hearing,” she said in an email. “Fees we pay are dependent on multiple variables and the board’s willingness to schedule the meeting helps address one of those multiple variables.”
The special meeting also helps get Wind Creek Bethlehem a little closer to reality.