Built on the former site of the iconic Bethlehem Steel Works plant in the Lehigh Valley region, Wind Creek Bethlehem (originally Sands Bethlehem) opened its doors in 2009 and now attracts over 9 million visitors per year. The venue boasts more than 3,000 slot machines and 200 table games, and features one of the biggest poker rooms in the state.
The property was originally owned by Las Vegas Sands (LVS), but was sold to Wind Creek Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, for $1.3 billion in 2019. Wind Creek plans to open not only its own online casino, but also virtual poker room and sportsbook. While the book will be powered by Betfred and Scientific Games, it’s unclear which company will control its online casino and poker operations.
That said, here’s a look at how Wind Creek’s online casino is likely to shape up.
What kind of bonuses will Wind Creek Online Casino offer?
Sands was never afraid to make big bets on its properties, and its new owner, Wind Creek, seems fully capable of handling a substantial amount of risk itself. That said, we expect Sands’ new owners to fully embrace bonus incentives, giving PA gamblers yet another site where they can take advantage of added cash value.
Bonus offers are one of the most effective ways for online casinos to attract new customers, and usually come in two forms — free money sign up offers and first time deposit bonuses.
Free money sign up offers require no deposit, and award players a small amount of cash (usually in the $10-$30 range) simply for creating an account with the online casino. These bonuses allow players to take a real-money test drive of the site without having to risk their own.
If they like what they see, players then have the option to receive yet another incentive in the form of a deposit match bonus. Here, casinos match a percentage of a player’s deposit up to a specified amount.
For example, if Wind Creek were to offer a 100% bonus up to $1,000, a player depositing $600 would see the original $600 in his account plus an additional $600 in bonus money.
Bonus funds cannot be cashed out immediately, however, as they are subject to a wager requirement. In our example, if the wager requirement was set at 20X, our player would need to wager a total of $12,000 before the bonus was fully released to the account.
As such a major player in the market, we believe Wind Creek would be aggressive with its bonus offer, and set a reasonable play through multiple.
What advantages would a Wind Creek-branded online casino have?
- Casino/hotel promotional tie-ins: Wind Creek is likely eager to promote its land-based property as much as possible. Hotel room giveaways offered by Borgata online casino in New Jersey could offer a glimpse into the future of Wind Creeks’ iGaming promos.
- Online poker potential: Wind Creek’s 26-table poker room is the second highest-earning card room in the state. The casino could leverage that position by partnering with an established online poker software provider to capitalize on its well-known brand.
- Table games selection: When it comes to table gaming in Pennsylvania, Wind Creek is king. The land-based casino has more tables and spreads more games than any other in the state. Given this, it’s more than plausible that Wind Creek will go the extra mile in providing players with a stellar table gaming experience, which could very well include Live Dealer games streamed from a studio within the casino.
What software platforms will Wind Creek online casino support?
A successful modern online casino not only needs to account for desktop players, but should provide mobile options as well. So far Wind Creek is one of the only applicants for an online gaming license in the market that has not announced a partnership with a casino software provider, but negotiations are likely in the works.
In PA, even the smallest online casinos offer both desktop and mobile products, so it’s a near certainty a top-tier casino like Wind Creek would do the same.
While in the past, players were forced to install special software in order to play online casino games, it’s now possible to play directly through a web browser, no download required. In fact, this is now the preferred method at Internet gambling sites worldwide.
Wind Creek online players would be able navigate directly to the Wind Creek online casino website through any of the popular web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari), choose their preferred game, and begin playing right then and there.
One of the joys of gambling online is being able to experience the fun of a casino session without leaving your home. Mobile devices allow us to take that even further by offering the ability to play on-the-go from nearly anywhere.
In PA, online casinos offer a companion mobile app as standard practice. We expect Wind Creek to create solid mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices, stocked with table games, slots and video poker options. A dedicated section for online poker would also be a possibility.
Game selection at Wind Creek online casino
You can expect to see hundreds of casino games offered at a Wind Creek online, encompassing slots, table games, video poker, live dealer and possibly even virtual sports. Game libraries at PA gambling sites started relatively small, but have continued to grow through the years as operators steadily forge partnerships with new developers.
Slots at Wind Creek casino
Online slots are the bread-and-butter of any online gambling site and make up a large percentage of a casino’s total game library. In PA, slots libraries are becoming more diverse on a weekly basis, with many sites now offering dozens of titles.
Expect to see a wide array of slots games, from top providers such as NetEnt and IGT, at Wind Creek when the casino goes live with iGaming. Here are a few games you might find there:
- She’s a Rich Girl
- Triple Diamond
- Wolf Run
- Planet of the Apes
- Blood Suckers
Blackjack at Wind Creek
While blackjack tables at land-based casinos can fill up easily, making it hard to find a seat, you won’t have the same issue when you play online. Expect to see several blackjack tables available at Wind Creek online, each with slight variations in rules, stakes, number of decks used and number of hands allowed.
It’s plausible Wind Creek will even introduce an exclusive blackjack game or two, much like SugarHouse did in New Jersey. Let’s hope they do, as the land-based Wind Creek has some of the best blackjack rules we’ve ever witnessed, including resplit Aces and surrender.
Sidebet and hybrid games, like Wind Creeks’ brick-and-mortar Blazing 7’s and 21+3 Xtreme, could be available as well.
Roulette games featured at Wind Creek
While not as popular as blackjack or slots, roulette will most certainly be offered at Wind Creek online. There are two main variations of the game normally offered at online casinos: European Roulette, which includes one zero slot, and American Roulette, which includes two zero slots.
Other fun takes on the game might be available as well, like Double Bonus Spin Roulette, which adds the chance to make a jackpot-style win on every spin.
Other table games
Many of the other table games that you know and love from Wind Creek would also be found on its online site. Here are a few possibilities:
- Let it Ride
- Three Card Poker
- No Commission Baccarat
- Pai Gow Poker
Wind Creek casino: Video poker
Video poker is an attractive choice for online gamblers as it translates perfectly into the online realm. Video poker lovers would find all their favorite classic titles available at Wind Creek online, including:
- Bonus Poker
- Jacks or Better
- Double Bonus Poker
- Double Double Bonus Poker
- Deuces Wild
Our one fear is that the payout tables would downright stink. The tables at Wind Creek B&M casino are less than desirable, and with online sharing the same high tax rate on video poker, it’s likely the operator would opt for tables that returned an average of 97% — still a higher payback than most slots, but a far cry from the 99%+ returns found on NJ sites.
Live dealer games at Wind Creek online in PA
While live dealer games have been around for some time, they were only introduced in the legal US market in 2016, when they launched at Betfair and Golden Nugget Casinos in NJ. If the vertical’s success in the Garden State is any indicator, Wind Creek will be more than eager to offer them as well.
Live dealer games are similar to the popular Stadium Gaming which Wind Creek already offers its patrons. In the Stadium Gaming pit, players sit at terminals and bet on games being played out by live dealers. The table action is conveniently broadcast onto large screens.
The Live Dealer experience is nearly identical to Stadium Gaming, except that players can gamble from their home computer or through a mobile app. With Wind Creek customers already familiar with the general format, Live Dealer could prove an easy hit for the casino. Look for the following games to be offered:
- Casino Hold‘em
- The Big Wheel
Will Wind Creek’s PA gambling site have a loyalty program?
Wind Creek currently rewards its frequent land-based casino players through the Wind Creek Rewards loyalty program, which includes perks like:
- Comp dollars for use in the hotel, restaurants, the event center, clubs, spa and more
- Free entries for sweepstakes and promotions
- Exclusive email offers
- Perks at Wind Creek hotels
We fully expect Wind Creek to offer either a special online rewards program, or fold rewards for Internet players into its current program. The online loyalty program would likely look similar to those already offered in NJ, and could encourage players to visit its brick-and-mortar casino through cross-promotional offers.
The system would probably be comprised of several tiers and use two different types of points, similar to the current land-based program. The first points-type would determine your level in the rewards hierarchy, while the other type could be exchanged for things like cash bonuses and hotel stays. The higher your level, the more points you would receive for your play, on average. For example:
- Bronze level: Players would start here, earning points at the lowest rate for their real money play.
- Silver level: Once a certain threshold is hit, players would advance to this level, earning points at a faster rate.
- Gold level: The highest level, players would accrue points at the fastest rate, getting the biggest payback value for their play.
Banking options at Wind Creek gambling sites
Even after online gambling was legalized, some banks were skittish about processing iGaming deposits and withdrawals. This caused problems in the early days of the industry, as many players saw their credit card deposits rejected.
That issue has been now largely been resolved, and PA sites hit the ground running when they first hit the market. Now, even PayPal has jumped into the game, adding a convenient payment option for the millions of Americans who already hold an account there.
Here are some of the deposit options we will likely see at Wind Creek online:
- Instant eCheck (ACH)
- Online banking transfer
- Cashier’s cage at Wind Creek Bethlehem
- Wind Creek-branded prepaid Discover cards
- Visa/MasterCard credit or debit cards
- PayNearMe (cash at 7-Eleven)
- Bank wire transfers
- Paper checks
VIPs may have access to higher deposit lines, and would receive expedited withdrawals.
Customer service at Wind Creek online
Wind Creek will likely put serious money into any online casino venture, which would mean the creation of a top-notch customer service department. This would include local support staff available for contact through the following methods:
- Live chat
More about Wind Creek Casino
Wind Creek casino sits on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation plant, which was involved in creating some of the most iconic structures in the US, including the Rockefeller Center and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sands originally bought the sprawling property in 2007 and spent around $900 million developing it into Sands Bethlehem, making it the most expensive casino in the state. Local officials heralded the construction as a way to revitalize the surrounding Lehigh Valley area.
The casino was designed to reflect the aesthetic of the old steel mill, which can be seen in touches like the exposed beams, piping and brick walls visible on the gaming floor.
The property includes a 300-room hotel, outlet shopping center, concert venue and a variety of nightlife options, like the Vision Bar and the aptly named Molten Lounge.
While it was built at a cost of nearly $1 billion, Sands Bethlehem is small potatoes compared with its parent company’s properties in Macau and Singapore.
In March 2018, LVS announced that it would sell its Bethlehem property to Wind Creek Hospitality, the gaming and entertainment arm of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, for a cool $1.3 billion. Wind Creek operates several gambling properties, including three casinos in Alabama, a greyhound racetrack, and poker rooms in Florida. It has also expanded outside of the US with its purchase of two casinos in the Caribbean.
As part of the deal, Sands agreed to purchase licenses to offer online casino and poker on behalf of Wind Creek. The casino’s previous owner, Sheldon Adelson, was a staunch opponent of online gambling and would never have gotten involved in the industry. Wind Creek later purchased a license to offer sports betting both live and online as well. It has partnered with bookmaker Betfred and Scientific Games to power its sportsbook operation.
Previously owned by Sheldon Adelson, a fierce opponent of online gambling, we had little hope that Sands would open its own iGaming site. However, with its acquisition by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, it is now official that a Sands/Wind Creek-branded Internet casino is in the works.
Wind Creek is in the midst of an aggressive expansion outside of its base of operations in Alabama. The company has certainly taken on a large amount of risk, and operating an online gambling site will present an entirely new challenge. Has it bitten off more than it can chew?
While it’s unclear whether Wind Creek will have the bandwidth to sustain a successful iGaming site along with its other projects, its purchase of Sands Bethlehem is a very positive indicator for the industry as a whole.