Poarch tribe makes $1.3B property its 10th gaming operation
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Wind Creek Hospitality’s newest acquisition marks not only the 10th gaming facility now under control of Poarch Band of Creek Indians, but also represents the largest gambling operation in the Tribe’s portfolio.
Wind Creek Hospitality, the name under which PCI Gaming Authority does business, announced late last week that the tribe had completed a long, sometimes arduous process of purchasing the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa.
The transaction will put the Sands, one of the largest gambling houses in the northeastern U.S., at the top of the WCH list of gaming-related holdings. PCI reportedly bought the casino and hotel property, which will be rebranded as Wind Creek Bethlehem, for a “total enterprise value” of $1.3 billion.
Magi Williams, director of public relations for Wind Creek Hospitality, confirmed that negotiations for the Sands stretched out to more than a year.
“The purchase makes it the biggest property owned by Wind Creek Hospitality,” Williams said. “It took 14 months to get the deal closed.”
The upscale, Las Vegas-style resort, which opened in 2009 and reportedly has 2,500 employees, is located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, about 80 miles from New York City.
Amenities include a 282-room AAA four-diamond hotel, a 183,000-square-foot casino floor featuring 3,000 slots and electronic table games, 200 table games, numerous food and beverage outlets, a 150,000 square-foot retail mall and a multi-purpose event center.
Arthur Mothershed, Wind Creek Hospitality’s Vice President of Business Development and a member of Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council, said that over time, WCH plans to invest an estimated $340 million in updating and expanding the property.
Plans include construction of a 300-room hotel adjacent to the casino; a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park at the existing No. 2 Machine Shop Bethlehem Steel site, and a 400-to-450-room hotel adjacent to the adventure park.
“We expect to complete the hotel expansion in 24 months,” Watershed said during a video provided by Wind Creek Hospitality.
Jay Dorris, WCH’s president and CEO, said the quality of the resort’s management and staff was one of the main forces behind the decision to make an offer for the Sands.
“One of the things that drew us to this property is the quality and experience of the service-minded employees,” Dorris said. “Each of the nine executives has accepted a multi-year contract with us, and we hope that all team members want to continue their work here as part of the Wind Creek family.”
Mothershed expressed similar sentiments.
“We understand that people are the reason for our success, and I think that will be a huge impact on our new acquisition of Bethlehem,” he said. “All the (current) employees (of the Sands) are staying. One of the reasons we were attracted to such a facility is not just the physical structure, but also the team that’s in place. We hope they’re as excited as we are about the acquisition.”
According to a press release from Wind Creek Hospitality, WCH funded the acquisition with a combination of existing cash and new debt financing provided by Credit Suisse, one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Wind Creek Hospitality anticipates that the additional cash flow resulting from the acquisition will allow it to pay down debt on an accelerated basis.
Wind Creek Hospitality now oversees operations for 10 Poarch casino-hotel properties, including three in Alabama (Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Wetumpka, Wind Creek Montgomery). It also owns Wa She Shu Casino in Nevada, Creek Entertainment Gretna (Fla.) and Caribbean-based properties in Aruba and Curacao. The gambling portfolio is rounded out by greyhound racing tracks in Mobile and Pensacola.