Mystery of the Sands

Since the Las Vegas Review-Journal continues to pretend that the Sands Bethlehem sale isn’t taking place, we’ll fill you in on the latest. At least one Wall Street analyst is certainly taking the rumblings emerging from Bethlehem at face value. Deutsche Bank‘s Carlo Santarelli says the casino generates significant ROI for Las Vegas Sands but a sale wouldn’t hurt the balance sheet either. As for MGM Resorts International, “the transaction would expand a northeast presence that has grown significantly over the past year, while [its REIT] potentially benefits from a new rent stream.” Indeed, if the company adds Sands Bethlehem to a portfolio that includes Borgata and MGM National Harbor, it becomes a major mid-Atlantic player in a very short period of time.

While casino experts think Bethlehem would fit nicely into MGM’s repertory, they think it’s the odd man out among Sands’ more globally focused casino empire. Both Ohio University professor Alan Silver and Global Gaming Business Publisher Roger Gros singled out Sands Bethlehem as a curate’s egg in Sheldon Adelson’s collection. Silver may have unintentionally thrown shade on Sands when he said of MGM that it had, in the words of WFMZ-TV, “a long history of giving back to the communities it operates in.” He also said, presumably referring to the unionization of the casino’s security force, “they’ll feel a commitment to abide by any deals.” This whole deal could still go south. But it’s hard to put the sale genie back in the bottle after Sands Bethlehem President Mark Juliano was the one who pulled the cork. A WFMZ source described Sands Bethlehem employees as feeling ‘generally positive’ since Juliano broke the news to them. Perhaps they’re happy that they probably won’t be toiling for Mr. Potter much longer.

* S&G is battling technical difficulties today, so Illinois and Maryland casino grosses will have to wait and be included in a later dispatch.

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