Sands Bethlehem: A Casino Resort Rising From The Ashes Of A Historic Steel Mill

Las Vegas Sands Corp. was awarded one of the first five casino licenses granted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in 2006.

It soon broke ground on an ambitious casino and resort project on a piece of reclaimed land that once housed America’s second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder.

Construction began in the fall of 2007. Ironically, builders ran into difficulty finding structural steel for project due to a global steel shortage at the time. Plus, demolition took longer than expected because of the heavy concrete foundations used in construction of the old steel building on the site.

Having to face all those issues, one might wonder why Las Vegas Sands Corp. wanted to build a $600 million casino on the old Bethlehem Steel site in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. The answer lies in the location’s proximity to New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City.

In fact, as ads across the area often claim, the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River, connecting Manhattan and Jersey City, New Jersey, is less than an hour away.

The Bethlehem Steel site was strategically chosen because it gave Sands the best chance at attracting customers from its most populous areas in the region while taking away market share from other casinos all over the Northeast.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem didn’t meet its July 2008 projected opening date. However, it did open on May 22, 2009, and it was immediately a success. The state granted the property a license for table games in 2010. It then underwent a $30 million expansion, helping it grow into the highest-grossing casino in the state. Although, it now sits second behind only Parx Casino in Bensalem.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem now features more than 3,000 slot machines, 200 table games, and a number of electronic table games. It is also home to the second-highest grossing poker room in PA.

A hotel opened on the property in 2011. It is connected to the casino through The Outlets at Sands Bethlehem, an indoor shopping mall. There is also a 14,000 square-foot event center on the property. The Sands Bethlehem Event Center can fit up to 3,800 and regularly does, hosting concerts and various other forms of live entertainment throughout the year.

Winning the table game revenue race

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has long been the overwhelming leader in gross table games revenue in the state. In fact, Sands posted more than $243 million in gross table games revenue in 2017. That number was up more than 5.6 percent from 2006. Plus, it was almost $65 million more than any other casino in the state.

Thanks to a little over $300 million in slots revenue, Sands was able to post total gross gaming revenues of $545,739,460 in 2017. That made it the second-highest grossing casino in the state. Second to Parx and the $566,518,039 in total gross gaming revenues it posted in 2017. However, the likelihood is that Las Vegas Sands Corp. got to keep a lot more of its revenue than Parx did.

The state charges a 54 percent tax on slot revenues, but just 16 percent on table games. The theory is that table games are more expensive to operate. However, no matter how you slice it, being the state leader in table games revenues pays better than slots.

In 2017, Parx grossed almost $86 million more than Sands on its slots. However, more than half of that money went to the state. Sands only had to pay just 16 percent on its $65 million table games lead.

Sands was once the top grossing casino in the state. It may have fallen behind Parx in terms of gross thanks to Parx’ dominating slot revenue. However, what the casinos actually net likely tells a different story, one with Sands on top.

Casino games at Sands

Sands Bethlehem has a huge variety of slot machines. It has everything from the latest themed slots to progressive Jackpot machines ranging in denomination from 1¢ to $100.

There’s also a massive selection of video poker games on the property. Plus, Sands has Live Dealer Stadium Gaming, offering low-limit, live dealer Baccarat and Roulette with electronic betting terminals.

However, Sands Bethlehem is best known as the table games leader in PA. Classics like Blackjack and Roulette are there. However, so are rare Asian gambling favorites like Sic Bo and Pai Gow Tiles. Sands also has Craps tables as lively as any in Las Vegas. Limits vary and so do the selection of games. In fact, with over 200 table games on the property, there’s likely something for everyone.

Alternative table games at Sands include:

  • Texas Hold’em Bonus
  • Three Card Progressive Poker
  • Fortune Pai Gow Poker
  • Let It Ride Stud Poker
  • Caribbean Stud Poker
  • Mini/Midi Baccarat
  • Big Six
  • Casino War

Sands’ poker room is among the most popular in the state. The 27-table poker room spreads:

  • Limit and no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em
  • Stud
  • Omaha

Plus, it runs a regular tournament schedule and the DeepStack Extravaganza tournament series at least once a year.

Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is owned and operated by one of the largest casino corporations in the world: Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Sheldon Adelson is the company’s founder, chairman, and chief executive officer. He’s also internet gambling’s biggest opponent, making the likelihood that Sands Bethlehem ever enters the PA online gambling market quite slim.

Adelson founded the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, and regularly speaks out against the spread of legal and regulated online gambling across the US. He claims online gambling makes it too easy for people to gamble their lives away. Additionally, he thinks minors can easily access to the sites.

To date Adelson has ignored safeguards put in by online gambling operators and government regulators to prevent this activity and remains staunchly opposed to online gambling.

It could be that Adelson fears online gambling will cannibalize his land-based business. A business he has personally helped grow substantially to include properties all over the world.

Sands Las Vegas properties include:

  • The Venetian Las Vegas
  • Palazzo Las Vegas
  • Sands Expo & Convention Center

Sands Macau properties include:

  • Venetian Macau
  • Sands Macau
  • The Plaza Macau
  • Sands Cotai Central
  • The Parisian Macau

Plus, Sands owns Singapore’s highly successful Marina Bay Sands.

The Sands Bethlehem advantage

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has all the latest slot titles players love, but its real advantage lies in its variety of sheer number of table games. It is far and away the table games leader in the PA casino market, giving it more of an old casino feel that any other gambling facility in the state.

Add in the fact it has a shopping mall, a hotel, and all the amenities, entertainment, and restaurant venues one would expect to find at a modern casino resort and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem advantage is clear.

Sands has developed into a true entertainment destination. It was built in close proximity to New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City in an effort attract clientele from the populous areas in the region and other casinos all over the Northeast. By all accounts it has succeeded in doing so.