Of the five permanent stand-alone casino licenses granted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in late-2006, perhaps none resonated more loudly with the residents of PA than the one awarded to Las Vegas Sands Corp.
A staple of the fabled Las Vegas Strip for decades, Sands Casino and its more modern iterations redefined the Sin City experience, brings a measure of luxury and hospitality previously absent from the casino-going experience.
Since purchasing Sands in 1989, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has adapted a “bigger is always better” philosophy towards expansion, constructing increasingly swankier and larger hotels-resorts in Vegas, Macau, Singapore and of course Pennsylvania. As a result, Sands is one of the most recognized names in casino and resort operations today.
Given its affiliation with some of the world’s hottest gambling locations, it came as something of a surprise when Las Vegas Sands showed interest in building a new casino resort at the old Bethlehem Steel Plant. But Adelson smelled opportunity, namely the opportunity to drive New York gamblers away from Atlantic City. He wanted his casino closer, more modern, and a more brand recognizable casino palace. Suffice to say, Adelson’s plan worked.
After receiving its PA license, Las Vegas Sands wasted little time breaking ground on its latest casino foray. Due to the stubborn concrete foundation of its new home however, the opening would be delayed nearly a year.
Shortly after launching in May 2009, Sands would be among the first wave of PA casinos permitted to host table games. By mid-2010 the Sands Bethlehem’s casino floor was indistinguishable from those found at its more prominent locales. Rounding out Sands’ surge towards East Coast casino dominance was the addition of a 302 room hotel – the first hotel to be added to an existing Pennsylvania casino.
Sands Bethlehem: All to its Lonesome
Located just a few miles off well-known Route 78, Sands Bethlehem has the enviable distinction of being isolated from Pennsylvania’s other casinos, yet still within striking distance of New York City, Philadelphia and the Poconos. In fact, Sands is quite literally a straight shot west of the Holland Tunnel. No, those billboards near Newark, NJ aren’t lying when they boast that the best casino experience around is less than an hour away.
With its logo proudly brandished across the Bethlehem Steel crane, Sands Bethlehem is visible from miles around. And thanks to its status as one of the most well-rounded and recognizable casino offerings in PA, business at Sands is booming, evidenced by its most recent revenue tallies.
In fiscal 2012-13, Sands generated more table revenue than any other PA-based casino, and not just by a fractional margin. At $165.4 million in gross revenue, Sands and its 162 tables utterly decimated closest competitor Parx Casino by 50% (All this despite Parx touting a handful more table games).
Since revenue totals were last calculated, Sands has increased its table games to over 200.
Parx would have the last laugh however, bringing in considerably more slot terminal revenue ($426.6 million) than its rival ($350.4 million) – good enough for first place overall in PA’s casino market. Granted, Parx does sport slightly more slot machines than Sands.
Table Game Offerings at Sands Bethlehem
Sands offers perhaps the most eclectic array of table games on the East Coast. With variants ranging from old standbys like BlackJack and Roulette, to games most Westerners have rarely heard of such as Sic Bo and Pai Gow Tiles, Sands caters to both the casual gambler and those who lust after elusive progressive jackpots.
A testament to its burgeoning popularity, finding a seat during peak hours can be something of a chore, especially at the more party-friendly Craps tables. Perhaps that’s why Sands decided to construct its poker room smack dab in the center of its casino floor.
Consisting of 36 tables, Sands poker offering ranks third among PA rooms. Lacking the “Wow” factor of Harrah’s Philadelphia’s WSOP branded room and the exclusivity of Parx’s, Sands’ room gets by more on its seemingly endless stream of casual players, varied tournament schedule, and free drinks.
Although Sands is known to spread one-off games like Big O and O8 on occasion, most poker fates are decided over a No Limit Hold’em table.
Tournaments run every day except for Wednesday, with buy-ins ranging from $100 to $200. Special tournament series such as the DeepStack Extravaganza run on a somewhat consistent basis, but less so than Parx’s exclusive Big Stax Series.
High hand promotional bonuses are gifted out selectively and the Bad Beat Jackpot is known to eclipse to $200,000.
Sheldon Adelson – That Name Sounds Familiar
If you’ve taken any interest in the US’s regulated online poker industry, you’ve probably come across the name Sheldon Adelson. Although most widely known as the Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., Adelson is Public Enemy #1 of regulated iPoker advocates.
Since founding the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, Adelson has become a vehement spokesperson against all iGaming related activities, going so far as to publicly state that he will spend any amount of money to see that it is stopped.
Adelson argues that by legalizing online gambling, states are promoting the widespread increase of gambling addiction, and that those intoxicated by the allure of online gambling would “lose their homes.”
He also warns that minors have easy access to their parents smartphone and tablet devices, enabling them to make credit card transactions onto gambling sites with relative ease.
Yet, due to the safeguards implemented by regulatory committees, including self-limitations and strong authentication, and the fact that the activities of online gamblers can be more easily tracked than those who frequent land-based casinos, most industry experts agree that regulated online gambling is considerably safer than what Adelson will have the public believe.
There is a growing subsection of the community that believes Adelson’s position is nothing more than a smokescreen for his fear that online gambling will cannibalize his land-based business, even though on several occasions it has been proven that there is little overlap between online and b&m gambler profiles.
In any case, the presence of Sands in Pennsylvania will present a hurdle to any online poker bill introduced by legislators.
The Sands Bethlehem Advantage
Sands Bethlehem has a little – make that a lot – for everyone. In addition to the usual swatch of gambler-friendly activities, shopaholics will find plenty of deals to be had at the nearby Outlets of Sands Bethlehem and its 133,000 square feet of retail space.
Nightlife is a bit more on the subdued side, with four bars and lounges scattered throughout the casino floor. And food junkies will have their selection of everything from everyday eats at the food court to three Emeril branded dining establishments. Factor in the Sands Bethlehem Event Center, fitness area, indoor pool, and hotel suites: Sands is less of a casino and more of a vacationer’s haven!
Just don’t expect Sands to partner up with an online gaming company anytime soon – or ever for that matter.