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Howard Stutz

Sands Bethlehem impresses on opening weekend

29 May 2009

BETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania –- A week after the $743 million Sands Bethlehem Casino opened, Wall Street decided to scope out the property.

After all, the casino is only a 90-minute drive from New York City.

Two gaming analysts came away impressed by the casino's initial performance. Based on data provided by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the 3,000 slot machines at Sands Bethlehem collected somewhere between $460 and $571 in win per machine per day during Memorial Day weekend.

In other words, the Sands Bethlehem had gaming revenues of between $1.38 million and $1.71 million each day over its three opening days. And, that figure doesn't include revenues generated at the property's four restaurants, such as the seemingly always-packed Emeril's Chop House.

"Clearly the out-of-the-box performance for the property was solid," Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Joel Simkins told investors. "One would expect (the performance) given a strong marketing push. The property will generate a significant amount of early trial."

JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said he believes Las Vegas Sands will ask Pennsylvania for approval to add another 2,000 slot machines by November.

"Overall, we were impressed by the size and the crowd volume at the property," Greff said. "Importantly, we found access to the property from midtown Manhattan to be much easier than say traveling to Atlantic City."

Simkins said Sands Bethlehem still needs a planned 300-room hotel and other nongaming amenities to keep customers returning.

"Given an A+ location that can draw from northern New Jersey and the Philadelphia suburbs, Sands should generate strong revenue, while returns may take longer to materialize," Simkins said.