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Opening weekend crowds find history, Emeril

25 May 2009

By Mark Hansel, Las Vegas Sun
BETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania -- The Sands Bethlehem casino has a visually stunning interior that conjures images from the rich history of the storied Bethlehem Steel plant site the venue is located on.

Overhead, hundreds of bright orange accent lights conjure visions of glowing steel rods and the restaurants and bars have names such as Coil, Molten Lounge and Cobalt. The casino opened to the public on Friday.

One of the big attractions on opening weekend was Emeril Lagasse, who opened Emeril's Chop House, his third restaurant on a Las Vegas Sands property.

Onlookers crowded the aisles outside the Chop House, hoping to get a glimpse of the chef that has made "bam" a household word.

Philip Monesmith and his wife, Ann, of Mt. Arlington, N.J., won a meet and greet dinner at the restaurant in a local radio contest, one of several area promotions designed to tout the opening of the property.

"There he is," Monesmith said, grabbing for his camera as Lagasse stuck his head around the corner.

Lagasse shook Moresmith's hand and asked if he was enjoying the meal, then went back to cooking, periodically coming back out to check on his invited guests.

Each time he did, the crowd outside pressed their faces against the restaurant's glass like kids looking in a department store window at Christmastime.

Monesmith, who is primarily a poker player, said he expects to make occasional trips back to the casino.

"I'm sure I'll come back with friends from time to time," he said.

That's good news for Sands Bethlehem casino president Robert DeSalvio, who said he expects about half of the casino's business to come from New York and upstate New Jersey. The casino is located about an hour north of Philadelphia by car and 90 minutes west of New York City.

Sands Bethlehem faced some of the challenges that are inherent in any casino opening, including long lines of customers wanting to get "My Sands" reward cards, so they could start earning comp points as soon as they began spending money. The redemption machines were also overworked, creating some extended wait times for visitors to redeem tickets.

For the most part, however, the opening was fairly seamless for customers, considering tens of thousands filed through the doors in the first 48 hours the property was open for business. DeSalvio said he credits two test days earlier in the week with allowing the casino staff to identify and fix any equipment or logistical glitches.

"We tested Monday, were closed Tuesday, tested Wednesday and closed Thursday," DeSalvio said. "That was a big help and it really gave us a chance to work the kinks out."

Las Vegas Sands delayed completion of a 300-room hotel at Sands Bethlehem but plans to finish that project and add a retail component and meeting space when the economy recovers.

Copyright © Las Vegas Sun. Inc. Republished with permission.


Telemundo may give Neonopolis a Spanish accent

17 September 2007
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The latest savior for Neonopolis could be the Spanish-language television station Telemundo, City Hall officials say. Under a deal being negotiated, the station would occupy office space on the third floor of the downtown retail complex and possibly have a studio on the first floor. ... (read more)