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.
Pennsylvania House Bill 808, introduced this week, would authorize video gaming machines for video poker, bingo, keno and other games in establishments with valid liquor licenses, such as restaurants, bars, taverns, hotels or clubs, in Pennsylvania. Similar legislation was introduced last year, and we provided an analysis of that bill here. In addition to providing an overview of the legislation, this Alert highlights the many similarities and distinct differences between House Bill 808 and last year’s legislation.
Licensed establishments with less than 2,500 square feet would be permitted up to five video gaming terminals. One additional terminal would be permitted for every additional 500 square feet, up to a maximum of 10 terminals. In comparison, last year’s legislation authorized up to only three machines at an establishment.
Maximum wagers are held to $2.50 with a maximum payout of $500 and a payout percentage of 85 percent. The only change from last year’s legislation is a reduction from $1,000 to $500 on the maximum payout.
To read the full text of this Alert, please visit the Duane Morris website.
On February 25, 2015, John Payne, Chairman of the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee, introduced a bill that would allow existing Pennsylvania casinos to offer Internet gaming to patrons in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), which currently regulates casino gaming in the Commonwealth, would be responsible for licensing and regulating Internet gaming, as well. Under the bill, only existing casino licenses, or their affiliates, will be eligible to offer poker and other casino style games over the Internet. The proposed legislation also calls for the licensing of “significant vendors,” which would include operators of interactive gaming systems on behalf of the existing licensees. Importantly, the proposed legislation does not include a “bad actor” provision that would bar individuals or entities previously associated with illegal Internet gaming activities from being licensed by the PGCB. However, applicants would still be required to satisfy Pennsylvania’s suitability requirements, and it remains to be seen what view the PGCB will take of applicants who may have previously engaged in unlawful Internet gaming activities.
Subject to the limits under federal law, the bill limits participation in Internet gaming to those physically present in Pennsylvania, or from states with which Pennsylvania negotiates an Internet gaming agreement. The bill contemplates a rapid implementation cycle by requiring the PGCB to decide a licensing application within 120 days of a proper application being submitted. The PGCB may also grant temporary authorization to any vendor upon the filing of a complete application.
To read the full text of this Alert, please visit the Duane Morris website.
Associate Adam Berger in the Cherry Hill office wrote an article for the Philadelphia Business Journal titled “P.A. Gaming Industry at a Crossroads: Lessons from Atlantic City.”
As the song goes, Atlantic City didn’t know what it had until it was gone. In 2006, the city’s casinos brought in more than $5.2 billion in gaming revenue. In 2014, that number was down almost 50 percent, to $2.7 billion, and expected to fall even further in 2015, the first full year of operations following the closures of four casinos – Atlantic Club, Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza.
Pennsylvania casinos, on the other hand, experienced their highest total gaming revenue of $3.15 billion in 2012. Gaming revenues declined slightly in the Keystone State during each of the next two years, down to just over $3 billion in 2014, but despite the recent declines, Pennsylvania remains the second largest gaming market in the nation, next to Nevada. It is from this point of strength that Pennsylvania needs to recognize what it’s got and not repeat the mistakes of its neighbor to the east.
So how did New Jersey allow its casino market to fall so far? Clearly the loss of New Jersey’s East Coast monopoly on gaming — as a result of the advent of casino gaming in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania — did not help. But this increased competition did not seal Atlantic City’s fate; rather, its fate was sealed during the preceding decades when Atlantic City casino operators failed to improve their properties and make Atlantic City a true and viable destination. Instead of making necessary capital expenditures and adding resort amenities, casino owners upstreamed profits while their properties slowly became outdated. The result was a city full of mostly unexciting casinos that offered little more than the slots-in-box style options found in neighboring states.
To read the full article, please visit the Philadelphia Business Journal website.
Last week, a Pennsylvania bill, which would restrict the hours of operation of Pennsylvania casinos, was referred to the House Committee on Gaming Oversight. Specifically, House Bill Number 165 would require casinos in the Commonwealth to close between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. In a memorandum accompanying the legislation, State Representative Will Tallman, a co-sponsor of the bill, suggested that closing the casinos for a couple hours each day would reduce the prevalence of problem gambling.
If this legislation were to pass, Pennsylvania would be an outlier in the region as casinos in neighboring states – including New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio and Maryland – maintain 24 hour gaming operations. Additionally, New York recently selected three upstate applicants to develop full-scale resort casino facilities, which are expected to open in the next couple years. Once open, each of these facilities will offer 24-hour gaming to patrons.
It will be interesting to see if the Pennsylvania House committee charged with overseeing the Commonwealth’s gaming industry will support this legislation – and add another hurdle to a casino industry that is already struggling to keep gaming dollars away from rival gaming markets – or if the committee will determine that the existing regulatory safeguards to prevent problem gambling are sufficient. Stay tuned for updates on this and other legislation affecting the Pennsylvania gaming industry.
Although by all accounts Pennsylvania’s gaming industry has a been a great success since the first casino opened in the Commonwealth in 2006, the industry now faces stiffer competition than ever for gaming dollars in the region. From 2006 to 2012, gaming revenues grew each year on a year-over-year basis, but declined slightly from 2012 to 2013. Within the next few years, several new casinos will open along the east coast in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland. Additionally, New Jersey and Delaware each recently launched Internet gaming in their states and Delaware has entered into a compact with Nevada to attract more Internet gaming revenue. The stakes are high for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry to remain competitive and to not lose gaming dollars to neighboring states.
Continue reading What’s Next For Pennsylvania’s Gaming Industry?
Duane Morris’ Adam Berger, an associate in the firm’s Cherry Hill office, authored “Tavern Gaming: Did Pennsylvania Gamble Away a Huge Revenue Opportunity?” which appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal on March 13, 2014.
In a move meant to increase Pennsylvania’s state and local tax base, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law a bill that allows bars and taverns throughout the commonwealth to offer certain games of chance, known as tavern games. They include pull-tabs, daily drawings and certain raffles. Pull-tabs are games of chance that involve a ticket in which a player pulls, peels or pops open a selected part of the ticket to reveal images for a chance to win a prize based on what the ticket shows. These games may not offer a single prize higher than $2,000 or $35,000 in any consecutive seven-day period.
Click here to read the full article on the Philadelphia Business Journal website.