22 Sep

Sands Bethlehem plans Expansion to become Largest PA Casino

Pennsylvania’s casino industry has grown immensely over the last decade. It wasn’t long ago that casino gambling of any type was outright prohibited. Slot machines came in 2006, following legislation passed two years priors, and in 2010, table games were added to the menu. Now, it appears Sheldon Adelson is looking to don the crown in the Keystone State with a $40 million expansion to make Sands the largest casino in Pennsylvania.

Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort

The Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, PA (Sands Bethlehem, for short) came along in 2009; the brain child of Las Vegas Sands Corp‘s billionaire CEO Sheldon Adelson. It’s undergone various expansions along the way, quickly becoming the top destination in the area for poker and other table games.

Of course the casino is teeming with slots, as well, but blackjack, baccarat, roulette, poker and other table games reign supreme here. In fact, Sands Bethlehem is already home to 237 table games. In contrast, no other PA casino has more than 184. But Adelson seems to think that’s not enough.

PA Casino Needlessly Tight Lipped

A corporate spokesman for the company refused to confirm an expansion plan for Sands Bethlehem, but all evidence points towards a $40 million project to add nearly 100,000 square feet – that’s about two football fields worth – of floor space to the property. 35,570 of it is being dedicated to more gambling space, with the rest slated for additional restaurants.

“We’re not prepared to comment on any plans,” said Mark Juliano, CEO of Sands Bethlehem in a request for confirmation on Wednesday. But if he thinks he’s hiding anything, he’s not.

Perhaps it slipped Juliano’s mind that the plans the company recently submitted to the city are a matter of public record. According to those documents, the expansion will remove a portion of the parking lot on the north side of the facility to construct the new, multi-level addition.

There’s no mention of an expected price tag in the plans filed with the city, but that information came easily enough in a document released this week, pertaining to a 2015 property audit. That document refers to a “Sands table games expansion” that would cost $40 million, and references the project’s status as “plans submitted” in August.

Players Eager For New Poker Room

Talk throughout the casino’s existing poker room has been circulating for months now and players are eagerly anticipating a more private area to toss chips. At present, the Sands Bethlehem poker room is centrally located in the middle of the casino floor, surrounded by the flashing lights and ringing bells of slot machines – not exactly an ideal location for poker pros trying to concentrate on their strategic calculations while conducting psychological warfare.

Rumor has it the expansion will create a new poker room, separate from the casino floor, and much more accommodating to those who prefer the player-vs-player action around the felt.

One More Hurdle To Jump

While this sounds like a great plan, there is one last obstacle the Pennsylvania casino will have to get passed first. Sands Bethlehem’s license only permits up to 250 table games – the most currently allowed by state regulators – and there are already 237 on the floor. It’s doubtful they would spend $40 million to add just 13 tables.

As the state’s Gaming Control Board spokesman Richard McGarvey pointed out, Sands could run into a road block very soon. “Any expansion of this level would need full board approval,” McGarvey said, adding that, “No one has ever asked to go above the maximum before.”

Then again, he also noted that no request for a casino expansion has ever been denied by the Board, either.