Late last week, local media reported that Sands Bethlehem, which consistently ranks number one in table game revenue and second in slots among Pennsylvania’s dozen casinos, was on the block. The reports quoted internal emails sent to Sands Bethlehem employees from management cautioning them that a sale was “not imminent.”
On Wednesday, the Allentown Morning Call reported that Sands’ owner had reached an agreement in principle to sell Sands Bethlehem to MGM Resorts for around $1.3b. While necessary due diligence will likely take several weeks to conclude, the Morning Call’s two sources now claim that the sale was “imminent.”
Officially, Las Vegas Sands continues to take a tight-lipped stance, with spokesman Ron Reese saying only that the company had no announcement to make at this time. MGM reps were similarly unwilling to confirm or deny, saying the company would have no comment “on this or any other merger and acquisition activity.”
MGM has been undertaking a significant expansion in the US northeast region in recent years, most notably via last December’s launch of the $1.4b National Harbor resort in Maryland, last summer’s acquisition of the other half of Atlantic City’s Borgata casino and the $950m in-development MGM Springfield venue set to open in southern Massachusetts in September 2018.
Sands Bethlehem scored high on the state’s February slots revenue, earning $25.3m, second only behind Parx Casino’s $30.9m. All told, the state’s 12 casinos reported total slots revenue of just under $192.3m, down nearly 4% from the same month last year.
COULD MGM HASTEN ONLINE GAMBLING’S ARRIVAL?
MGM’s entry into the Pennsylvania market could help tip the balance in the state’s push to authorize online gambling. Sands’ boss Sheldon Adelson is vociferously anti-online gambling while MGM, which has an online gambling partnership in New Jersey, has been vocal in its support of online gambling.
State Sen. Pat Browne told the Morning Call that he “would consider changing my opinion [on online gambling] if a new player arrives on the scene with a different view of it. If MGM is [Sands Bethlehem’s] buyer, I’d like to know where they stand before I consider new legislation.”