Posted on: December 12, 2020, 09:09h.
Last updated on: December 12, 2020, 09:09h.
Wind Creek Bethlehem in Pennsylvania says it will pay approximately 1,600 workers during the state-ordered three-week shutdown of its casino resort.
Wind Creek CEO Jay Dorris explained he was disappointed with Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) decision to once again force the state’s commercial casinos to close. The casino, however, will keep its team members on the payroll during the latest mitigation orders, which run through at least 8 am ET on Monday, January 4.
Along with its casino, Wind Creek was forced to close all of its restaurants for indoor dining. The resort also decided to shutter its hotel during the shutdown. Its retail space — The Outlets at Wind Creek Bethlehem — will continue operating, but at no more than 50 percent capacity.
This is the second time that Wolf has ordered casinos to close. The gaming floors shuttered their operations in mid-March, and were allowed to reopen in June at 50 percent capacity.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama completed its $1.3 billion acquisition of the Bethlehem casino in Eastern Pennsylvania from Las Vegas Sands in May of 2019. Less than a year into its ownership, COVID-19 swept the nation and led to every commercial casino in the country being forced at some point to suspend operations.
Dorris understands why Wolf issued his latest coronavirus mitigation orders, but says some businesses are better at preventing COVID-19 spread.
We just want everybody to know that the steps that can be taken, we’ve been taking them and we’re enforcing them,” Dorris told The Morning Call. “We would respectfully suggest that all businesses can’t be treated the same.”
Wind Creek Bethlehem Executive VP and General Manager Kathy McCracken was one of the signatories of a letter sent to Wolf on behalf of the Pennsylvania gaming industry just prior to the shutdown orders. In the plea to the governor to allow casinos to continue operating, the industry reps said they’ve invested tens of millions of dollars to equip their businesses with substantial protections to combat the coronavirus.
“The record shows that we have successfully managed the pandemic,” the letter declared. “There is no evidence that casinos are a source of COVID-19 spread. We all understand that one case is one too many. However, forcing our properties to close would ignore this record, our investments, and our commitment to strictly enforce all protocols.”
When the Poarch Creek Indians bought the Bethlehem casino, the tribe announced plans to invest substantially in expanding the property.
Work was set to begin in early 2020 on a $100 million hotel addition, but the 13-story, 270-room project has been put on hold amid the pandemic. Wind Creek has also floated ideas of spending as much as a quarter of a billion dollars to reimagine the historic No. 2 Machine Shop located on the resort’s grounds into a waterpark and 400-room hotel.
Dorris says the first expansion is still a go. The reality of the Machine Shop project isn’t quite so clear.