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New shooter takes aim on Chicago land gaming market

18 July 2007

Ameristar Casinos expects to close on a transaction to acquire Resorts East Chicago late this year.

The company, founded in 1954 by Craig H. Neilsen, operated modest properties in the far northern reaches of Nevada before finally expanding the brand in 1992. It currently has seven properties.

Ameristar's entry into the Chicago market signals the beginning of a new growth strategy in the wake of the sudden passing of Neilsen in November of last year and the appointment of veteran casino industry executive John M. Boushy to the posts of director, president and CEO.

Boushy, a top-level executive with Harrah's for 27 years before signing on with Ameristar, is familiar with the Chicago market. He was involved with the opening of Harrah's Joliet in 1993 and was a member of the team that designed the hotel tower that opened on the East Chicago site when it was a Harrah's owned property.

The Thrifty Gambler had an opportunity recently to speak with Boushy about the Resorts acquisition:

Thrifty Gambler: Is Ameristar looking forward to entering this market?

John Boushy: We're very excited to be coming in to Chicago land and we certainly see it as a wonderful way for us to begin the growth strategy that we outlined at the beginning of February. As we developed our acquisition strategy we actually had at the top of our list a desire to get into the Chicago market and specifically had at the top of that list the Resorts East Chicago property.

TG: Ameristar is a brand that resonates among people in each of the markets it currently exists. What is your formula for success?

JB: I think it really speaks to the foundation that we have. Number one, we really believe in investing in high quality facilities that also provide best in-market experiences. We have an experience that I really believe resonates with our guests and as a result does quite well from a competition standpoint in each of those markets.

TG: What are your plans for the East Chicago property?

JB: We are still formulating the exact details of that business plan. We are actively working with the Resorts Team now to really understand and discover all of the things they are doing at the property. While we are pretty familiar with the overall Chicago market we're also continuing to learn more about it. So in broad strokes here's what we intend to do: First and foremost we believe that there is an underserved need in the Chicago land market in general. We believe that the right kind of facility, operations, marketing, and investment in quality can really help to not just capture additional market share but frankly grow the market. What we believe that means is that we will double the size of the casino, going to a single-level vessel approach instead of four levels. And as we go to that single-level approach provide various amenities and other experiences beyond casino entertainment.

TG: How soon will the property be re-branded following the acquisition?

JB: We think there'll be a period of time in which we will continue to run it under the Resorts name. We'll re-brand the property Ameristar when we are confident enough we have elevated the guest experience to a level that is truly indicative of Ameristar.

CASINO NEWS: Bijoux Terner, a shop featuring jewelry, watches and other fashion accessories inspired by designs from fashion's leading brands, is now open in the pavilion at Harrah's Joliet. Every item in the store is priced at $10.

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:

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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