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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Majestic Star Bucks the Odds vs. Fierce Competition

12 September 2007

The footprint of the Greater Northwest Indiana gaming market is growing bigger and more formidable with new developments and expansion.

Horseshoe Hammond will open a spacious new $465 million facility next summer; later this year Ameristar Casinos will take over Resorts East Chicago; last year Blue Chip unveiled a spectacular new gaming vessel and next year will celebrate the grand opening of a new luxury hotel in Michigan City; last month the land-based Four Winds Casino Resort opened to rave reviews in New Buffalo, Michigan.

How does all of this impact the Majestic Star Casinos in Gary?

In the wake of expansion into a twin-vessel operation with the December 2005 acquisition of its Buffington Harbor neighbor, the Trump Casino & Hotel, Majestic Star president, chairman and CEO, Don H. Barden, has faced many challenges.

It isn't easy competing against the marketing might of Harrah's Entertainment, owner of the Horseshoe. Total Rewards player's club program is a powerful marketing tool, especially with Harrah's Joliet so close. The brand picks up even greater strength with cross-marketing among gaming jurisdictions nationwide.

On the horizon, look for Las Vegas-based Ameristar to be very aggressive promoting its entry into the Greater Chicago area. The company has experience competing against Harrah's in Missouri gaming markets and knows what it takes to increase market share.

Barden, who also owns Fitzgeralds-branded casinos in Tunica, Mississippi, and Black Hawk, Colorado, has made no secret of the fact he would love to replace his existing riverboats in Gary with one gigantic single-level vessel.

In spite of the decision earlier this year to lower the pay tables on much of its video poker product, thereby tarnishing its reputation as a haven for advantage players, Majestic's video poker collectively is still the best in a market that has grown increasingly hostile toward devotees of the game.

The first half of this year saw Majestic take control (from a third party) of the restaurant operations in Buffington Harbor. The initial phase of upgrading was highlighted by the opening of Don B.'s Steakhouse in the space previously occupied by Koko Taylor's. Don B.'s brought a much-needed signature fine dining establishment to the Majestic Star.

Improvements on property also include a completely remodeled "Superstar" premium players lounge and the conversion of Don & Mike's Sports Bar on Majestic Star into a high limit baccarat room with dedicated food service specializing in Asian cuisine as well as two tables at which players handle the cards.

Majestic is also very imaginative and adventurous with its inventory of slots and table games, bringing aboard not only Rapid Roulette but also fully automated electronic table game consoles featuring blackjack and Three Card Poker.

The strongest asset, however, is the 21-table poker room, arguably the most energized and proactive among the venues of its kind in this region. An eclectic tournament schedule designed to appeal to all levels of players is augmented by the Heartland Poker Tour, which is burgeoning in popularity.

Last month's No Limit Hold'em Heartland Poker Tour tournament stop at Majestic hosted a sold-out main event which attracted 422 players and a record prize pool of $816,612.

The tour returns to Majestic for another tournament in December. Three more Heartland tournaments in Gary are already booked in 2008.

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