On May 29, 2019, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a Change of Control petition for the sale of Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort. Two days later, on May 31, 2019, Wind Creek Hospitality officially acquired the casino from Las Vegas Sands Corporation for $1.3 billion, as the transaction closed on Friday. The casino resort facility, which is located in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, will operate as Wind Creek Bethlehem, and will include amenities such as a 282-room AAA Four Diamond hotel, a 183,000 square foot casino floor featuring slots, table games, and electronic table games, numerous food and beverage outlets, a retail mail, and a multi-purpose event center.
The closing of the transaction comes after approximately fourteen months of regulatory review and, most recently, the PGCB’s approval of the transaction. Duane Morris represented Las Vegas Sands in the transaction, providing gaming regulatory and real estate guidance and assistance in other areas, including serving as co-counsel before the Board for Wind Creek Hospitality. Duane Morris attorneys who assisted on this matter include J. Scott Kramer, Greg Duffy, Frank DiGiacomo, Chris Soriano, and Adam Berger.
On June 22, 2016 the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a sweeping expansion of gambling . The bill, which must be passed by the state’s Senate and signed by the Governor, would allow for internet based gambling, daily fantasy sports, slot machines at off-track betting parlors (“OTBs”), slot machines at airports and even paves the way for legalized sports betting, if, and when that is allowed under federal law.
- Pennsylvania would be the fourth state to allow legal internet gambling (Internet gambling is currently legal in New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada);
- Internet gambling would be offered through the Commonwealth’s current, licensed casinos with each casino paying an $8 million license fee to offer internet gaming;
- Age and geo-location controls will be required – players must open an account, be 21 or over and must be located within PA while participating in internet gambling;
- The tax rate on internet gambling revenue would total 16%;
- Participating casinos would not be allowed to reduce their number of slots machines their existing b casinos
Daily Fantasy Sports
- Bill allows current DFA operators like FanDuel and Draft Kings to obtain a license to offer DFS without partnering with a PA casino; DFS operators would pay 5% of its revenues ( after player payouts) to the state;
- DFS players must be 18 yo or older;
Slots at OTBs
- PA’s 5 racetrack casinos would each be permitted to have up to 4 off-track betting parlors with up to 250 slot machines per OTB;
- Each such OTB must be outside a 50 mile radius of an established PA casino;
- There is a $5 million licensee fee for each OTB with slots;
Slots at Airports
- Casinos can seek permission to install slot machines at airports; the PA Gaming Control Bd can set limits on the number of slot machines l allowed;
- License fees for such operations would be $5 million in Philadelphia; $2.5 million in Pittsburgh; and $1 million a each at the four other international airports in PA;
Expansion of Current Resort Casinos
- Current Category III casinos in PA can expand their max slot machines counts from 600 to 850 and table games from 50 to 65;
- There is also a relaxation in the requirement that casino patrons be customers of other amenities;
- If a current Category III casino and all three changes it so would requires $4.5 million is additional license fees.
- The bill instructs the PA Gaming Control Bd to develop regulations to allow for sports wagering if, and when the federal government permits such sport betting
On February 12, 2014, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Gaming Oversight Committee held a hearing to receive testimony regarding the prospects of legalizing electronic gaming devices, i.e video gaming machines, in the Commonwealth. The hearing focused on gaming along the lines of what was raised in a prior session’s bill, (2014 House Bill No 1932), which sought to legalize video gaming machines for bingo, keno, blackjack and other games for use in establishments with valid liquor licenses, such as restaurants, bars, taverns, hotels and clubs.
With a looming budgetary deficit Pennsylvania legislators are exploring various ways to increase gaming related tax revenue, including potentially moving forward with internet gaming through its existing bricks and mortar casinos. This recent Gaming Oversight Committee hearing revisiting the video gaming machines issue would be another means through which to generate gaming based tax revenue. The hearing’s witnesses touted the jobs and tax revenues generated by Illinois which implemented video gaming machines in bars, restaurants, taverns and truck stops several years ago – (projected IL tax revenues in excess of $250 million in 2015). While Illinois has had success generating tax revenue and producing jobs with its video gaming machine roll out, the machines do compete, on a low end basis with the states’ existing casinos. While local municipalities in Illinois can opt out of the video gaming program that option may not exist in a Pennsylvania bill and opposition from Pennsylvania’s casino industry remains to be seen.
Also, if considering video gaming at bars and taverns Pennsylvania may be well served to learn from some of the mistakes made with the passage of last year’s Tavern games legislation. Tavern games, with its gaming regulatory scrutiny focused on the bars/tavern owners, rather than through the games’ owners and route operators, lead to cost issues and a reluctance to move forward which hampered widespread implementation of tavern gaming. In addition, while Illinois has had relative success with its multi-tiered system of manufacturers, distributors, operators and establishments, that system has one too many layers to operate as effectively as it otherwise could. Few recall Pennsylvania’s short-lived requirement of local suppliers of slot machines layered between the industry’s manufacturers and end user casinos. The removal of the local supplier requirement opened the way to the implementation of Pennsylvania casinos in 2006. Finally the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and its agencies are more than capable of regulating and rolling out video gaming should it become law. Bringing in other, less experienced state agencies, such as Liquor Control or the Department of Revenue would only further complicate and delay implementation should the law pass.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that it is now accepting applications for the one remaining casino license that must be located within the City of Philadelphia. This is the former “Foxwoods” license which was revoked by the Board in December 2010. The Board set an application deadline of November 15, 2012.
In its announcement, Board Chairman, William Ryan stated that it was in the “best interest of the people of Pennsylvania” to proceed with the application process since it appears that recent legislation, considered by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which would have amended the current gaming law and allowed the vacant license to be located anywhere within the Commonwealth, is unlikley to move forward.
The licesne fees to operate a casino with up to 5000 slot machines and 250 table games, totals $74.5 million.
Per the gaming revenue numbers released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, in March, Pennsylvania’s casinos achieved a new high in gross table games revenue. While this may have been expected due to the recent opening of the Valley Forge Casino Resort, the increase was primarily due to significant gross revenue increases at Harrah’s Chester Downs with close to $7.9 million in gross table revenue from 125 tables, Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem with $12.1 million in gross revenue from 152 tables and Parx Casino with $11 million in gross revenue from 183 tables. There were an average of 1,028 tables in operation across Pennsylvania in March, and they brought in gross revenue of $61.9 million. March’s table games revenues surpassed the previous all-time high for table games, when Pennsylvania casinos raked in $56.6 million with an average of 854 tables in February, 2012.