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Wind Creek Bethlehem
Wind Creek Bethlehem|Chuck Darrow
Entertainment

Wind Creek Bethlehem celebrates official grand opening

The Lehigh Valley gaming hall is the new owner’s first move to expand beyond its Alabama home base. Published reports suggest it won’t be the last.

Chuck Darrow

Chuck Darrow

BETHLEHEM, Pa.— It’s been more than four months since the Poarch Band of Creek Indians closed on its purchase of what was Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort. But Thursday afternoon, the new owners officially christened the property Wind Creek Bethlehem.

Casino executives, politicians, tribal officials and others—including celebri-chef Emeril LaGasse, who has three restaurants (Emeril’s Chop House, Emeril’s Fish House and Burgers and More by Emeril) at the gaming hall, and Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro Jr., who has an Italian eatery and pastry shop--gathered outside the main entrance to the casino to celebrate the sale and name change with remarks and a ribbon-cutting ceremony that concluded with a pyrotechnical display choreographed to Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Luck Be A Lady.”

The Poarch Band tribe, which owns and operates three Alabama casino-hotels, doesn’t plan on standing pat with the 10-year-old adult playpen that sits on the site of the iconic Bethlehem Steel works it purchased for $1.3 billion from Las Vegas Sands Corp. It has already spent a reported $15 million to rebrand the property—which includes the multi-purpose Event Center, a 302-room hotel tower and a bi-level outlet mall boasting some three dozen retailers. Other changes that have already been made or should take effect soon include the introduction of a player-rewards system which Wind Creek Hospitality CEO Jay Dorris described as “one of the better awards programs in the casino industry.” And bigger things are on the horizon.

Already underway is the construction of a 300-room hotel tower that will boast 42,000 square feet of meeting space, and an indoor water park. These projects suggest Wind Creek management intends to expand the property’s audience beyond the local market.

“We think we can broaden the appeal of the location of the property and we think it’s very important to get a head start on it,” said Dorris. “If New York City [gets one or more casinos], we’ll already be” an established destination.

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