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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Locals Flair at Buffington Harbor

10 December 2003

For a good number of years following the introduction of state-sanctioned casinos to the Chicago area more than a decade ago, the gambling options were one-dimensional. That is, it was a seller's market. High minimums at the table games, sub-par video poker product, and an emphasis on the "high rollers" reigned supreme. Consumers were pretty much told to take it or leave it.

Now that casino gambling has come of age around here, it has started to acquire an identity that serves a broader base of consumers. This has come about from competition among the various properties in Illinois and Northwest Indiana and legislation through the years that, quite simply, makes it easier and more convenient for people to gamble.

For example, on my last visit to the Majestic Star Casino and the Trump Casino & Hotel, which share the same pavilion facilities in Gary, Indiana's Buffington Harbor on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, I detected an atmosphere similar to what one would find in the "locals"-oriented casinos in Las Vegas.

The hotels and mega-resorts on the famous Las Vegas Strip serve the tourist trade, the heavy bettors, and a younger crowd that loves to party. Most of the table games have high minimums and few player-friendly rules. There's a low priority on video poker, and the games that do exist have less than desirable pay tables.

There's also a vibrant locals casino market in Las Vegas. Very popular "off-strip" properties owned by such successful gaming companies as Station Casinos, Coast Casinos, and Boyd Gaming (Sam's Town), among others, do big business catering to average gamblers by offering lower limits at the tables, better rules, as well as good video poker and lots of it.

It appears as if Majestic Star and Trump have taken the lead in that department in the Chicago area. Majestic Star, for example, has a dedicated two-cent slot machine area that features many of the most popular multi-line video games from IGT and Williams Gaming. There's also a video poker area that offers a wide variety of games with rock-solid pay tables. There are some nickel games and even penny Hundred Play. The overall slot product, along with the table games selection, appeals to a broad spectrum of gaming enthusiasts.

The Trump Casino is more aggressive in marketing its product to average gamblers. The casino has a bank of the popular Multi-Strike Poker machines in nickel format, as well as a selection of nickel Triple Play, Five Play, and Ten Play video poker games. I never thought I would see that in the Chicago area!

Trump also advertises a guarantee of five-dollar gaming table availability during the morning, afternoon, and early evening weekdays Monday through Thursday. That's a welcome option in a market where average gamblers and seniors who like to play cards, roll the dice, or bet roulette are inundated with $10, $15, and even $25 minimum tables.

The Majestic Star and Trump also make quarter Keno games available to their guests, something which people are always asking for around here but can never find.

An additional bonus is the fact both casinos offer "ticket-in/ticket-out" technology at a majority of its small denomination video poker and video slot product. It's a tremendous convenience that should also be coming to Illinois casinos in the near future.

If you haven't been to Buffington Harbor in a while, I suggest you take a look around. A tip of the gaming cap to both Majestic Star and Trump for bringing a welcome alternative to Chicago-area gamblers.

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