Casino operator Tropicana Entertainment is reportedly looking to buy Pennsylvania’s market-leading Sands Bethlehem casino. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania media outlet The Morning Call broke the news that the Las Vegas Sands (LVS) property was being pursued by Tropicana, which is 70% owned by billionaire Carl Icahn and appears to be in an acquisitive mood. Earlier this month, Tropicana Entertainment finalized its $260m purchase of the Lumière Palace Casino in St. Louis, Missouri from Pinnacle Entertainment.
Sources said the Sands Bethlehem deal involved selling the casino, hotel, shopping mall and theater to Tropicana, while the remainder of the property – vacant buildings and blast furnaces formerly operated by Bethlehem Steel – would be sold to BethWorks Now, a consortium of local and New York investors. No prices have been revealed, but LVS is believed to have spent upwards of $800m to build and develop the property since 2009. Last year, a source told The Morning Call that LVS was seeking $1b for the property.
Tropicana Entertainment operates a casino in Aruba and eight others across six US states, the largest of which is the Tropicana in Atlantic City. Back in 2006, Tropicana unsuccessfully battled LVS for the lone casino license being issued for the region in which Sands Bethlehem now calls home.
So far, no one from Sands, Tropicana or BethWorks has commented on the report beyond variations on ‘no comment.’ Bethlehem mayor Robert Donchez claimed to have had a conversation with Sands Bethlehem interim president Douglas Niethold, who would only say that the casino had not yet been sold but that discussions on possible sales to various interests had been happening for a year and a half.
Rumors flew in January 2013 that Sands Bethlehem was on the block but little has been heard on the matter since. Sands Bethlehem is LVS’ smallest US property and the only one based outside of Las Vegas. It contributes just 3% of the company’s overall revenue, nearly 90% of which now comes from Sands’ properties in Macau and Singapore. Sands Bethlehem’s former president, Robert DeSalvio, tendered his resignation in February, shortly after the casino’s computer systems were compromised by hackers allegedly irked by LVS chairman Sheldon Adelson’s bellicose comments regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.