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Gaming Guru

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Catching up with Gaming News and Updates

5 May 2004

Aside from the intrigue surrounding the awarding of the vacated tenth Illinois gaming license, there has been a lot of news coming from the existing properties in the Chicago area. Let's take a look.

Trading Places: The local Harrah's Entertainment properties have traded senior vice-presidents and general managers. Joe Domenico, who had held the position at Harrah's East Chicago Hotel & Casino for five years, has assumed the post at Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel, taking over for Michael St. Pierre who moves over to Indiana after having served in the senior VP and GM role in Joliet since 2000.

Domenico, a seasoned casino executive and savvy marketing professional, successfully developed the Harrah's East Chicago destination into one of the most attractive and popular offerings in this market during his tour of duty there. The property is presently nearing the completion of a $27 million facelift and renovation that solidifies its strong position in Northwest Indiana.

St. Pierre, a marketing professional who has been with Harrah's Entertainment for over a decade, leaves a Joliet property that has been trapped in a malaise the past couple of years (along with the other Illinois gaming properties in the Chicago-area) because of the oppressive tax structure that was imposed on the industry.

The bottom line for gaming fans is this: St. Pierre is just the man to continue the standard of excellence that has been achieved in East Chicago, while Domenico will be in a position to provide dynamic leadership and innovation once the wheels of progress are allowed to turn again in Joliet.

Video Poker News: I observed an increased video poker presence at Harrah's Joliet during my most recent visit there. I'm in the process of assembling some statistics on the pay tables to see how they stack up against the other VP offerings in this market. The new machines have been located on the left section of the barge as you enter the casino in areas previously occupied by reel slots. The property has also added a few new nickel multi-line video games, perhaps a harbinger of better things to come.

Exciting New Dining/Entertainment: The Koko Taylor Blues Café, which recently opened in Buffington Harbor in Gary, Indiana, is a refreshingly unique dining and entertainment venue in the Chicago area. Named in honor of the "Queen of Blues" herself, the restaurant has a museum-quality 'Wall of Fame" lined with the numerous awards Koko Taylor has won during her 40-year entertainment and recording career. Also on display are photographs of Taylor with other music legends, including Ray Charles, Cher, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and Keith Richards.

The menu is in the classic Southern style, featuring a variety of recipes from Taylor's private collection. Among the items from which to choose are southern fried or blackened catfish, crab cakes, gumbo, lobster and Memphis-style ribs.

Hours of operation are Wednesday and Thursday (5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) and Friday, Saturday and Sunday (5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). The café is closed on Monday and Tuesday. For information and reservations call 219-977-7539.

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