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Archive for March 16th, 2019

Sands Bethlehem Buyer Gets Key Approval for Planned Rebrand

Bethlehem planning officials approve change of the ore crane sign of Sands Bethlehem ahead of the casino’s sale to Wind Creek Hospitality

The Bethlehem Planning Commission gave Thursday the green light to a proposed plan for a change of the iconic ore crane sign that bears the name Sands Bethlehem informing visitors that they are approaching the entrance of the Bethlehem-based casino.

Wind Creek Hospitality presented the plan to planning commissioners Thursday afternoon and the name change was approved.

Wind Creek Hospitality is the gaming and hospitality business of Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians. News emerged last year that the tribe would buy Sands Bethlehem from its current owner, Las Vegas Sands, in a $1.3 billion deal. The transaction is yet to be completed as it needs approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Wind Creek officials told WFMZ that they cannot provide a specific timeline on when the deal will be closed, but they “suspect that it will happen sometime in the near future.”

If the purchase is given the nod by Pennsylvania’s gambling regulator, Sands Bethlehem will be rebranded as Wind Creek Casino and Resort. All signs at the property, including its ore crane sign will be replaced with new ones that will reflect the change of ownership.

As part of the rebranding, Wind Creek will increase the square footage of the ore crane sign to 3,880 square feet from 3,187 square feet. The Outlets at Sands Bethlehem will be renamed as The Outlets after the tribal hospitality business assumes ownership.

Multi-Million Expansion

Wind Creek Hospitality announced earlier this year plans to expand Sands Bethlehem. The hospitality company will invest $190 million to materialize its expansion project that will include the addition of a new hotel and possibly an indoor water park.

The new hotel at the property will feature 300 rooms as demand for accommodation has been growing rapidly in the region. Wind Creek Hospitality CEO Jay Dorris has said recently that occupancy at Sand Bethlehem’s existing hotel currently stands at around 90%. The company will look to break ground on the new accommodation facility immediately after it finalizes the property’s acquisition.

The new facilities at the casino resort will employ nearly 400 people when fully operational, in addition to Sands Bethlehem’s current 2,100-person workforce, Wind Creek Hospitality has said.

The company is further considering renovation of the vacant No.2 machine shop site. The development of a water park has been among the opportunities discussed by the property’s buyers for that portion of the land surrounding the existing resort.

Las Vegas Sands launched Sands Bethlehem at the site of the former Bethlehem Steel power plant in 2009. Reports about the property’s sale had floated around for several years and rival MGM Resorts International had been among its rumored suitors. It was last spring when it was eventually confirmed that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would buy the hotel and casino resort.

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Caesars Trims Corporate Workforce to Cut Annual Costs

Caesars Entertainment Corp. is trimming its corporate workforce to cut annual costs, the company announced amid investor pressure to sell itself or merge with another hotel and casino operator

The Las Vegas gambling giant said in statement issued this past Thursday that it has decided to cut a small percentage of its corporate workforce in a bid to reduce annual costs by more than $40 million. Most of the affected employees are based at the company’s Las Vegas headquarters.

The company further pointed out that many of the eliminated jobs will be currently vacant positions. Affected staff members have been offered severance packages. Caesars will also cover career counseling services for the laid-off employees. It is unknown how many will be affected by the gaming and hospitality operator’s cost-cutting move.

Consulting services will, too, be trimmed as the company proceeds with its strategy to reduce annual costs.

Caesars’ announcement came just a few months after rival MGM Resorts International revealed its 2020 Plan that, among other things, involved laying off 3% of its workforce by 2020 to reduce annual costs. Around 2,100 employees of the Las Vegas casino and hospitality company will be affected by the move in the coming months.

Creating New Jobs

Caesars indicated in its Thursday statement that reducing its staff was a short-term move and that it would soon begin searching for employees for its Caesars FORUM conference center. The company broke ground on the 550,000-square-foot property last year and is planning to invest $375 million into its development. The convention and conference facility is slated to open doors early next year.

Caesars has dominated industry news headlines since the beginning of the year with the developing story of New York activist investor Carl Icahn becoming the company’s largest shareholder and pressing for its sale.

Mr. Icahn has built a 17.75% stake in Caesars since the beginning of the year and is now pressuring the company to sell itself or merge its business with that of a rival casino operation. According to the businessman, “the best path forward for Caesars requires a strategic process to sell or merge the company.”

The hotel and casino operator emerged from a lengthy and complex bankruptcy in the fall of 2017 and has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to reduce a behemoth long-term debt and reassure investors of its favorable prospects for the coming years.

No suitor for Caesars has emerged publicly in the months after Mr. Icahn’s involvement in the company was revealed, but according to recent reports, Texas businessman Tilman Fertitta is still interested in merging the Las Vegas gaming and hospitality giant with his own casino business. Mr. Fertitta is the owner of the Golden Nugget casino empire and Landry’s hospitality brand. He approached Caesars last year, but the company declined his purchase bid.

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Showboat Owner Moves Closer to Casino License

The owner of Atlantic City’s Showboat is getting closer to completing the first step in the casino license awarding process

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission will Monday consider a statement of compliance petition filed by the owner of the Showboat Atlantic City that, if approved, will pave the wave for granting a full-scale casino license to the non-gambling resort, The Press of Atlantic City reports.

Philadelphia-based businessman Bart Blatstein purchased the Showboat in January 2016 for $23 million. The property was not operational at the time. Formerly a hotel and casino resort, the Showboat closed doors in 2014. It was the second of a total of four Boardwalk gambling properties that shut down that year.

Mr. Blatstein reopened the Showboat in the summer of 2016 as a non-gambling resort. He submitted his statement of compliance petition in February 2018. Following an investigation whether the businessman was suitable to operate casino gambling on the territory of the state, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has issued a recommendation to the Casino Control Commission.

The casino regulator will vote on Monday on whether to approve Mr. Blatstein’s petition, based on the Division of Gaming Enforcement’s recommendation. If the Philadelphia-based developer is granted the petition, he will then be able to apply for a casino license with New Jersey regulators, if his plans for the property still include adding a casino.

Transformation of One of Showboat’s Towers

It is still unclear whether the Showboat will re-assume its spot in Atlantic City’s casino market. Mr. Blatstein has told the Press of Atlantic City that he will comment on his plans for the casino portion of the property after the Monday vote.

What is known about the future of the complex is that the businessman previously revealed plans to convert one of its towers into 264 apartment units. Mr. Blatstein sought last October approval from the land use department of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approval to materialize his plan. The agency greenlit the project in November.

The 20-story tower located closest to Pacific Avenue is now being transformed into a rental apartment building with a mix of studio, one-, and two-bedroom units. Commenting on his plan, Mr. Blatstein has said that Atlantic City’s casinos have “turned their backs to the side streets” and that what really intrigued him was the opportunity to “create a community.”

The Showboat originally operated more than 1,330 hotel rooms. It will feature just over 1,000 hotel rooms when one of its towers is fully transformed into an apartment building. The transformation process is expected to be completed and apartments are expected to become available this summer.

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MassGaming to Receive Steve Wynn Probe Results Today

MassGaming can finally begin its review of a probe conducted by its in-house investigative team into sexual allegations against casino mogul Steve Wynn

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will today finally receive the report on the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against casino mogul Steve Wynn prepared by the regulator’s investigative team.

Local news outlet the Boston Herald reported citing the commission’s Executive Director Ed Bedrosian that once the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau hands its report to commissioners, the regulatory body can formally begin preparations for a hearing at which it would announce its decision whether Wynn Resorts is suitable to operate the $2.5 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino resort in the Greater Boston region.

Mr. Bedrosian told commissioners yesterday that preparatory work would include their review of the report and assessment of its findings, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s legal team working with Wynn Resorts on pre-hearing issues, the regulator’s investigative division preparing a presentation of its probe, and finally setting a date for the adjudicatory hearing.

MassGaming’s in-house team of investigators launched a probe into sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Mr. Wynn by former and current Wynn Resorts staff shortly after last year’s publication of a detailed Wall Street Journal article on the issue.

The regulatory body wanted to discover whether those allegations were true, how Wynn Resorts responded to complaints by employees, and if the company had previous knowledge and was involved in alleged off-court settlements reached with affected staff members to keep quiet.

Wynn Resorts was selected a few years ago as the preferred bidder for the construction of a Las Vegas-style casino resort in the city of Everett, near Boston. The company’s $2.5 billion is nearing completion and is slated to open doors June 23. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be looking to issue its decision whether the company is suitable to operate the property before that date.

Details about the Adjudicatory Process

Mr. Bedrosian said yesterday that he expects the adjudicatory hearing to be a multi-day process. On the first day, the commission’s Executive Director expects investigators to summarize their findings and Wynn Resorts to ask questions and present its own evidence to the gambling regulator. Commissioners will too be expected to ask questions.

Commenting on the anticipated formal start of the adjudicatory process, Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said yesterday that “there’s quite a bit of uncertainty relative to the time frame”. He went on to say that they are “anxious to see [the report] and address what comes with it.”

The gaming regulator is finally able to move on to assessing its investigators’ report after it reached a settlement with Mr. Wynn, who sued the regulator and Wynn Resorts in a Nevada court last year, arguing that the company had communicated information to MassGaming during its probe that violated attorney-client privilege.

The Gaming Commission originally planned to release the results of its investigative team’s probe in December, but the presiding judge in the case blocked temporarily the publication of the report, saying that she wanted to hear more arguments from all involved parties.

The gambling regulator voted last month to settle the issue off the court floor in a bid to avoid protracted litigation. The settlement with Mr. Wynn also provided commissioners with access to critical investigative information.

The regulator’s investigative report will be released to the public on the first day of the adjudicatory process, commission spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said.

Wynn Resorts has already begun holding career fairs for Encore Boston Harbor. The company has said that its property would employ around 5,000 people.

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