Wind Creek Bethlehem to Decrease Slot Allotment, Casino Cites Social Distancing

Posted on: February 9, 2022, 12:03h. 

Last updated on: February 9, 2022, 05:21h.

Wind Creek Bethlehem wants to declutter its casino floor by removing 655 slot machines. The commercial casino owned and operated by Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI) says the decision to remove terminals is because of  patrons’ changing behaviors.

Wind Creek Bethlehem Pennsylvania casino slot
A sea of slot machines clutter the Wind Creek Bethlehem casino floor. The Pennsylvania casino is seeking state approval to remove 655 terminals to provide more space for guests to social distance. (Image: Wind Creek Bethlehem)

PBCI, through its gaming and hospitality unit Wind Creek Hospitality, recently petitioned the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to reduce the number of slot machines on its Bethlehem casino floor. Wind Creek wants to lessen its slot allotment from 2,973 current machines to 2,318. That’s a 22 percent cutback.

Wind Creek Bethlehem seeks the referenced permanent slot machine reduction based on decreased utilization, to create a more comfortable and engaging experience for its patrons, taking into account added desire for social distancing, with no projected negative impact on revenues to the Commonwealth,” the casino’s filing explained.

Pennsylvania casinos must request permission from the state gaming regulatory agency when a licensee seeks to decrease its number of slot machines by more than two percent.

Wind Creek Bethlehem is one of only three casinos in Pennsylvania operating more than 2,000 slot machines. The others are Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (2,559 terminals) and Parx Casino (2,372 terminals).

Wind Creek is additionally seeking to expand its gaming floor by 2,566 square feet. Pending PGCB approval, the former eatery Burgers and More will become home to 17 poker tables, Wind Creek said.

Second Wind

Wind Creek Bethlehem was known as Sands Bethlehem before the Poarch Indians acquired the Pennsylvania casino from Las Vegas Sands in May of 2019 for $1.3 billion. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the US eight months later.

Sands Bethlehem was the top gaming revenue generator in Pennsylvania prior to its sale. As Wind Creek Bethlehem, the casino has lost that title to Parx near Philadelphia.

Wind Creek was a rather foreign brand to Pennsylvanians, which resulted in some former Sands Bethlehem players opting for Philly casinos. Sands relied heavily on its bus services to transport players from North Jersey and the New York City metro to its Pennsylvania resort.

Wind Creek began recouping some of the business last year. The casino reported $264.9 million in slot revenue — up 76 percent from 2020 — and $185.1 million from table games — up 78 percent.

Those numbers ranked second among the 16 casinos in the commonwealth. Where Wind Creek is struggling is in the expanded gambling markets.

Wind Creek actually lost nearly $500,000 running its sportsbook last year. Its iGaming revenue totaled just $12.5 million. That’s a far cry from the $418.9 million that Penn National generated from internet slots and tables.

Standalone Sportsbook Restaurant Opens

In related Pennsylvania gaming news, the state’s first physical sportsbook outside a brick-and-mortar casino opened this week in Malvern. Parx is lending its race and sportsbook license to Chickie’s & Pete’s, a popular Philly restaurant chain.

Today, the Chickie’s & Pete’s location in Malvern on the Main Line opened its sportsbook. The space features four standalone sports betting kiosks, plus a full-service counter.

Pennsylvania’s 2017 gaming expansion package authorized sports betting at casinos and online. The statute additionally allows sports gambling at off-track betting facilities so long as they’re operated by a racetrack casino, such as Parx.