Sneak peek at Bethlehem casino

May 18, 2009 3:15:19 PM PDT
The site of an old steel plant is about to begin its new life as a casino in the heart of the Lehigh Valley.Enter the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

The grand opening for the gaming destination is set for later this week.

But the place was abuzz with activity Monday as the doors were opened for a preview.

The final touches are being added before the casino, on the site of the old Bethlehem Steel plant, opens to the public.

The glittering new facility offers 3,000 slot machines and electronic table games, four restaurants, a food court, a pub, and two entertainment lounges.

One of the eateries will be an Emeril Lagasse Restaurant, the first in the northeast. Action News is also told Emeril himself will be at the Sands Bethlehem to make sure everything goes according to plan.

What you will not find are the previously advertised hotel, mall, and convention complex.

"Those projects will continue as soon as the economy turns and the credit markets improve," said Bob DeSalvio, President of the Sands Bethlehem. "We thought that was a prudent step to take, but we will also honor our commitment to build out those facilities when the timing is right."

Still, this gaming house is expected to generate a tremendous amount of money.

Local officials in Bethlehem are looking forward to reaping "host fees" to the tune of a million dollars the first year and up to more than 9 million annually when this 750 million dollar project is fully operational.

Bethlehem's Mayor, John Callahan, says it's time to prove that introducing gambling to the Lehigh Valley will not have a negative impact on the region.

"Most of those questions have been asked and answered, and I think even those that were opponents to it early on, a couple of years ago, have come around to the fact that this is probably going to be a good thing on balance for the community," Callahan said.

Action News still found some people unhappy with the project.

"I've been to Las Vegas, and that's pretty scary out there. I don't know what's going to happen here. It didn't do anything for Atlantic City, either. That's pretty much a messy town," said Pat Brinley of Bethlehem.

Many other are hoping the Sands is a resounding success if for only one reason.

"Jobs for people here that have lost their jobs at Bethlehem Steel. My neighbors all went up there and applied for a job, hoping to get one," said Donna Rendall of Bethlehem.

The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem opens to the public on Friday.

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