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Howard Stutz

Sands denies sale of Pennsylvania resort

1 March 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas Sands Corp. refuted a Pennsylvania media report that it is selling its casino at the site of the former Bethlehem Steel Mill by announcing Monday it would restart construction of a stalled 300-room hotel tower at the location in a matter of weeks.

The 9-month-old Sands Bethlehem, which has 3,000 slot machines and several restaurants, opened last Memorial Day at a cost of $743 million. Las Vegas Sands delayed the hotel and other aspects of the project because of the troubled economy.

Two weeks ago, Las Vegas Sands announced it filed an application with state gaming regulators to install table games at the casino by this summer. In January, Pennsylvania lawmakers changed gaming laws to allow table games at the state's casinos and racetrack casinos.

"We are looking forward to reviewing our table games application with the Gaming Control Board, and at the same time we have undertaken efforts which will result in construction resuming on the hotel portion of the development in the very near future," Las Vegas Sands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson said in a statement.

In the fourth quarter, Las Vegas Sands said the Sands Bethlehem had an operating loss of $2.1 million on revenues of $57.5 million.

The company denied media reports Monday in Pennsylvania newspapers that Las Vegas Sands was looking to sell the resort.

Bethlehem community leaders wanted Las Vegas Sands to build the hotel that had been part of the original plans for the project, which included meeting space, other entertainment options and a museum honoring the site's history as the Bethlehem Steel Mill.

Las Vegas Sands officials said the hotel tower would be built as soon as subcontractors are lined up and hired.

Adelson said the company would announce a date for the restarting of construction later.

Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese told the Lehigh Valley Express-Times the company is hopeful of seeing better financial returns at the casino.

"The company's focus right now is to get the property to perform better," Reese said. "We're in the process of initiating some new marketing programs and looking forward to getting table games and overall working to improve the performance of the property."