The online gambling conversation in Pennsylvania has been going on for three years now but could the sale of a land-based casino finally push it through? As bizarre as that sounds, that could exactly be the case as a couple of big-name Las Vegas brands are battling it out both on land and on the internet.
It's not quite official but it looks like the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has been purchased by MGM Resorts International for an amount in the vicinity of $1.3 billion. If the deal does in fact go through, it would be the single biggest upheaval in the land-based casino industry in the history of Pennsylvania.
MGM Resorts International, a Las Vegas company, runs the online gambling sites for Nevada and New Jersey. So how is that relevant to online gambling? It's quite simple. The Sands is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who is vehemently against online gambling. He feels that if players play online, he'll lose out on business inside his casinos. While the state of Pennsylvania has pushed to legalize online gaming, Adelson has previously threatened to pull millions in investing from the state if they in fact do so. Many experts believe that's why the online gambling bills have stalled.
However, now we have MGM Resorts International buying out Adelson. MGM is a big proponent of online gambling, so that's a big boost. But beyond that, if Adelson doesn't have his casino in Pennsylvania anymore, he won't have as much sway. Where he had previously threatened to pull his money, now that threat might not be as a menacing and legislators may decide to finally push it through.
At the end of the day, there is simply too much money involved for Pennsylvania as the state has a $3 billion deficit. When it comes to getting licenses to run online gambling sites, along with taxes, the state could bring in almost $100 million in their first year in licenses alone and then over $40 million from taxes. Those are low estimates if Pennsylvania decides to allow gaming machines in bars, airports and restaurants, and they're also looking into legislating fantasy football as well.
Of course, Adelson isn't the only person who opposes online gambling in the state of Pennsylvania as State Senator Pat Browne, who is a Republican, is on the case too. Sands cost about $830 million to build and they have over 2,500 people from Pennsylvania working there, so there is an issue that online gambling could get rid of some of their jobs. Another Republican, State Rep. Scott Petri, is the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, and he will also be investigating both sides of the coin when it comes to online gambling.
At the end of the day, the MGM purchase means that Adelson has diminishing say in the state. There is still lots to consider for everyone when it comes to the legalization of online gambling in Pennsylvania, but eventually it should boil down to the dollar bill. Staring down a deficit of $3 billion is definitely going to be a factor.