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Wind Creek Bethlehem opens; license sought for Illinois casino

News Staff Report

Wind Creek Hospitality officially celebrated last week the $15 million “rebranding” of the former Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., the most lucrative property in the Poarch Band of Creek Indians gaming portfolio.
Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who owns three restaurants in the new complex, was on hand for the grand opening of Wind Creek Bethlehem, into which WCH plans to invest nearly $200 million in new construction and upgrades to the outlet mall and other surrounding properties.
The “new” gaming and entertainment establishment is located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, approximately 80 miles from New York City.
It features a 183,000-square-foot casino floor with 3,000 slot machines and electronic table games, and 200 table games.
PCI has already announced plans to build a 276-room hotel tower, to add about 42,000 square feet of event space and to turn the historic No. 2 Machine Shop into an indoor water and adventure park with accompanying 400-room hotel.
Grand opening festivities included performances by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Dancers and a visit by tribal princesses. Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan and other PCI leaders welcomed dignitaries.
Other activities included WCB’s $25,000 Charity Giving Contest winners. Wind Creek Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Carr announced Via of the Lehigh Valley as the winner of $25,000, and Wind Creek reportedly gave the remaining nine nonprofits a prize of $10,000 each.
“This is a proud day for our Tribe,” said Arthur Mothershed, PCI Tribal Council Member and WCH Vice President of Business Development. “We are pleased to be part of the Lehigh Valley community and look forward to continued expansion at this facility and offering additional jobs and economic growth to the surrounding areas.”
According to published reports, Bryan said the tribe and Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem and on creating additional job opportunities beyond the property’s current employment of about 2,360.
While the Wind Creek Bethlehem grand opening was being conducted, WCH development officials were waiting to see if the tribe’s gaming presence would expand to five states and 11 properties, as an application to build a new casino and resort complex near Chicago remained pending.
According to a story in the Chicago Tribune’s October 3 edition, WCH plans to build a new, 64,000-square-foot casino, a skyline lounge and a 251-room hotel with an indoor pool and spa on property that straddles the jurisdictional lines of Chicago’s East Hazel Crest and Homewood suburbs.
The proposed gaming complex, which would be located about 26 miles south of downtown Chicago, will also feature a venue for live music, three restaurants and two bars. The initial phase of the project will carry an estimated $275 million price tag.
According to the newspaper, the facility would be built on a 24-acre site southwest of the interchange of Interstate 80, which passes through Chicago’s southern suburbs, and Halsted Street. More than half the site is in East Hazel Crest. If the license is approved, that suburb and Homewood, in which the rest of the property is located, would share in a portion of casino revenue, as would dozens of other area communities.
Wind Creek has an option to purchase the proposed casino property, where two hotels, both of which have been demolished, once stood. WCH has been working on the proposal with Homewood and East Hazel Crest for several years, since the possibility of a south suburban casino was first discussed by Illinois legislators.
The state currently has 10 casinos operating within its borders. Legislation passed earlier this year allows for six more.