Possible Sands Sale Could Have Major Impact on iGaming in PA

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In a move that could have major implications on the battle for legal and regulated online gaming in Pennsylvania, MGM Resorts International is reportedly interested in buying the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem from Las Vegas Sands.

While neither side has committed to the sale as of yet, local newspaper The Morning Call claims two sources familiar with the negotiations say MGM may be looking to buy Sands Bethlehem from Las Vegas Sands at a price of $1.3 billion.

Sands Bethlehem CEO Mark Juliano told The Morning Call the sale is “not imminent, and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done before it will be final.” Mary Hynes, director of corporate communications for MGM Resorts International refused to comment.

Sands Bethlehem, which opened in 2009 and has grown into one of Pennsylvania’s most popular regional casino properties, has apparently been on the block before. It is actually Las Vegas Sands’ only regional casino property, and claiming he wanted to return the company’s focus to destination resorts, owner Sheldon Adelson tried to unload Sands Bethlehem to Tropicana Entertainment owner Carl Icahn in 2014, before talks fell apart.

Sands Bethlehem officials have reportedly told the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board it is currently involved in negotiations to sell.

Pennsylvania lawmakers got together last week to host a hearing regarding an expansion of gambling inside the state, including online gaming legislation.

At the joint committee of the Pennsylvania House and Senate, Parx was the only one of the state’s 12 brick and mortar casino properties claiming it had any issue with legalized and regulated online gaming coming to Pennsylvania.

Of course, Adelson remains the biggest opponent to online gambling across the United States, spending millions on lobbyists and an effort to restore the Federal Wire Act, which would make it illegal for states to enact separate iGaming legislation.

The local press in Bethlehem had been claiming Adelson was expected to lead the fight against online gambling in the state.

In contrast, MGM bought out Boyd Gaming’s interest in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey last summer, instantly becoming New Jersey’s iGaming market leader. Plus, MGM has shown an interest in new gaming technology and bringing it’s own MGM brand to the New Jersey market in the near future.

While a casino sale of this magnitude will not happen overnight, clearly those pushing for legal and regulated online gaming in Pennsylvania would like to see it happen sooner rather than later.

Obviously, with MGM in and Adelson out, the path to iGaming in Pennsylvania would be cleared up substantially.

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Marty Derbyshire has been covering online gambling for various industry media outlets since 2007.

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