The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) slapped Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem with separate fines of $122,500 for underage gaming violations and $112,500 for unauthorized and excessive free slot play.
The fines are the first against Sands Bethlehem since the renewal of its Category 2 license two years ago. It received 10 penalties for underage gambling or drinking at the casino.
PGCB Director of Communications Doug Harbach told PennSportsbooks.com that underage gambling is the most common fine.
“There are three factors our enforcement council considers when they are negotiating a likely fine with a casino: it is self-reported, what is the history and looking at the individual circumstances and how these were handled.”
Sands fined for underage gambling
Sands Bethlehem violated the underage gambling law 11 times in the most recent complaint.
The incidents occurred during the time period of March 2018 to January with the underage patrons ranging from 18 to 20 years old. Sands Bethlehem self-reported all of the incidents and permanently evicted each of the underage patrons.
Most of the infractions occurred when an underage patron gained access to the floor. The most common access came via the bus or marketplace entrance.
Harbach listed some reasons for underage gambling including the fact that about half of Pennsylvania’s casinos are located at racetrack facilities and individuals can gamble on horse racing at eighteen years old. He discussed the challenge:
“Underage gambling has been a challenge and will continue to be a challenge for both land-based casinos and online. I think all of the casinos have stepped up their game and purchased more state-of-the-art equipment to detect it. But it’s always difficult to stay ahead of what’s going on. We know when it comes to fake ids being purchased online they have gotten better.”
Sands Bethlehem does not have a racetrack. However, it received more than $615,000 of fines mostly related to failure to stop underage patrons from gambling or drinking.
In January 2017, Sands earned itself four fines of $50,000 for failing to prevent underage gambling. The fines involved five persons younger than 21. In July 2017, the PGCB gave Sands a $150,000 fine for underage gaming violations for 10 incidents for failing to prevent underage access to the gaming floor.
Free slot play not so free after all
On April 6, 2017, the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement opened an investigation into the awarding of free slot play at Sands. They discovered employees not authorized to issue free slot play issued free play and did so excessively.
The investigation found that a total of 6,428 free slot play transactions violations. Employees issued over $1 million in free slot play above their authorization level. Many of the infractions came as a result of unauthorized employees awarding free slot play.
PA readies for online sports betting and online gambling
Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson has lobbied against online gambling at state and federal levels. However, it is not working as the legislation moves forward in several states and implementation in the Keystone State is imminent.
In a Forbes article, Adelson calls online gambling, “fools gold” and insists it not a threat to his business but a “threat to society.”
“The possibility of underage children finding ways to place online wagers and the possibility of people betting under the influence of drugs or being coerced are all scenarios that can happen when the person is only monitored by their own computer screen,” said Adelson.
Harbach assures preventing underage gambling is a priority. It will not be easy for underaged gamblers to set up an account for online casino gambling or sports betting.
“There are a number of levels of verification that is necessary and it will also be needed when someone logs back on after setting up an account. We’ve seen it done pretty successfully in New Jersey where the levels of verification that have been put into the software have been very effective.”
Wind Creek Hospitality, the real estate division of Poarch Band of Creek Indians entered into an agreement to acquire the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for $1.3 billion. Both companies went before the PGCB on Oct. 3, 2018. The sale is not finalized yet and rumor has it Wind Creek is not happy with Adelson’s very vocal anti-online gambling stance.
During the 2017-18 fiscal year, Sands Bethlehem was the leader in Pennsylvania table game revenue with $235,716,102. They rank second in the state behind Parx with total revenue of $537,770,566.