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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Boyd Gaming Makes a Blue Chip Investment

20 April 2005

When Iowa became the first state to legalize riverboat gambling in 1989 and the first boats began cruising the Mississippi River two years later, it marked the first time state-sanctioned and regulated casino gambling was conducted in the United States outside of the state of Nevada and Atlantic City.

Five more states jumped on the riverboat bandwagon during the next five years, including Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri. Indiana officially became a riverboat casino state in 1995, but since then no other state during the last decade has introduced gambling legislation in the form of riverboats.

In the wake of the riverboat phenomenon, gambling expansion in the United States has taken the form of land-based casinos (e.g., Detroit, Michigan), Native American casinos, and the introduction of slot machines and table games to existing horse and dog racing tracks.

Even the original riverboat legislation in most states has been modified through the years to authorize that the boats be permanently docked, such as is the case in Indiana and elsewhere, as well as completely eliminating "sea worthy" vessels and replacing them with permanent barge structures that for all practical purposes give a land-based feel to the gambling experience.

It is within this economic climate that Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, one of the nation's most successful gaming companies, deserves a big round of applause from residents of Indiana for making a $150 million investment in a brand new gaming vessel at its Blue Chip Casino & Hotel property in Michigan City.

Boyd, which prides itself in reinvestment in the gaming properties it owns nationwide, could very easily have kept the existing vessel in place until that time, if it should ever come, that dockside barge gambling legislation is passed in Indiana. But Boyd has a history of striving to make every property it owns the very best it can be.

According to Judy Campbell, the vice-president and general manager of Blue Chip: "Probably the biggest reason we decided to expand and move forward was that since 1999, when Boyd Gaming acquired Blue Chip, this property has been an extremely successful part of our company. Boyd is always reinvesting and always trying to grow those businesses, so this is our way of expanding and trying to continue to grow Blue Chip."

Because the Blue Chip floats in an inlet adjacent to the shores of Lake Michigan, the existing vessel, which opened its doors on August 22, 1997, had to be constructed on site. The same is true for the present construction project, which is taking place next to the boat while gaming continues uninterrupted.

"Because there's no possible way for a vessel to navigate into our location, we're forced to build the new vessel right here on property, as was the case with the existing one," Campbell said. "So basically what we have here is our own little shipyard."

Following the permitting process and preparatory work, construction began in June of 2004. It is expected to be completed the fourth quarter of this year. The project also includes a 950-space parking garage which will be finished in July.

Rob Stillwell, vice-president of corporate communications for Boyd Gaming, observed: "There are a lot of unique aspects to this particular project. This will be the largest hull size ever built, creating the largest 'footprint' of any gaming vessel in the country. Creating a comfortable gaming atmosphere and a pleasing environment was a leading factor in this redevelopment effort.

"This kind of construction activity in the area is a real positive as well, both from a jobs perspective (an additional 100 plus jobs will be created) as well as the local vendors and subcontractors that we will be using. It speaks volumes about the economic impact that our industry can have in a region with a project of this magnitude."

Boyd Gaming Makes a Blue Chip Investment is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp