Sands Bethlehem Casino Wages War on Gambling in Taverns

by Jim Hall

Sands BethlehemThe Sands Casino Bethlehem has decided to launch a campaign in order to stop gambling from taking place in bars.

The state of Pennsylvania has been trying for some time to expand their gambling offerings. From airport gaming to VGTs in bars and restaurants, plus online gambling, the state has been considering it all. The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is one venue of the state that is not on board with any such changes to the gambling industry. The casino has now decided to fight back in order to stop the state from allowing gambling to take place in bars and other venues.

VGTS are a Threat

The Sands recently lost out on a sale of their venue by MGM Resorts due to the potential for the state to be changing their gambling laws. MGM apparently did not want to move forward with their deal to acquire the casino after learning gambling laws may change, including allowing casino gambling to take place in bars, which would be a competitor to the venue. The Sands has now reportedly started a campaign to stop such activity from taking place, spending a ton of money to do so.

Beginning this week, an ad war is starting via television, online and on the radio by the Sands in order to fight legislation that is expected to be introduced within the House to allow video gaming terminals to be added to bars throughout the state. Commercials will soon begin to air that will show the downside to such gaming from the perspective of the Sands. Executives of the venue feel that such gaming will cut the casino model of the state.

The Sands Company is spending over $1 million via a new lobbying organization titled Pennsylvanians For Responsible Government. Officials of the casino have stated that they expect other casinos to join in the fight but as of yet, none have been named.

Fighting for Slot Monopoly

The casino wants to be able to keep the slot gaming to the casino venues, while the Pennsylvania Tavern Association has tried for years to become involved in the gambling industry. The campaign started by the Sands will have radio spots across the state and a website has been created along with 30 second television ads that will also run in every market, except Philadelphia, beginning this week.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvanians For Responsible Government, Mike Barley, stated that the proposal for VGTs would destroy the brick and mortar casino industry and put the $1.4 billion tax revenues created by gaming at risk. Barley pointed out that the VGTs are created to operate without the help of employees which would put the jobs at gaming venues at risk, with 18,000 casino employees relying on their positions.

Proponents of the plan say that the mom and pop taverns will benefit while also creating hundreds of millions in tax dollars which will only help the state budget. Tavern Association lobbyist, A.J. Marsico, pointed out that the members of the association employ over 100,000, much more than the casino industry.

Others feel that legalizing the gaming option will help the state to tax the machines that already operate illegally. The demand for such gaming seems to exist so by legalizing it and taxing the activity, the state is able to earn a reward instead of constantly fighting illegal operators.

As part of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the Sands Bethlehem continues to fight anything that goes against their gaming offerings. The casino has shown no interest in online gaming as well as not being willing to pay their share tax rate until the government comes to a decision on what should happen in regards to the tax. Many states have offered to pay their normal yearly fee in order to help the local economy, while the Sands has not.