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The State of Gaming in the Chicago Area

16 June 2004

Gamblers in the Chicago area have the rare luxury of choosing from two gaming jurisdictions to play: The market in Illinois and the market in Northwest Indiana. The two worlds are so completely different that quite often the decision is easy. Generally speaking, here are the reasons:

Casinos in Illinois, with the exception of the Grand Victoria in Elgin, have admission charges. No Illinois casino in the Chicago area is open 24 hours. The statute limiting each property to 1,200 gaming positions restricts the ability of the properties to bring in a competitive mix of slot machines, video poker and table games. All the properties are still waiting approval for the convenience of coinless slots.

Casinos in Indiana, on the other hand, charge no admission, have 24-hour gaming, and unlimited gaming positions. Furthermore, most of the casinos are in the process of converting to 100 percent ticket-in/ticket-out slot technology.

In order to get a better grasp of the "state of gaming in the Chicago area", here is a capsulated profile of each of the casino properties:

INDIANA

Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino Hammond: A "gambler's casino" with a reputation for catering to guests, especially the high rollers. It's a table games player heaven with high limits and good odds. The property doesn't accentuate video poker, but if you play dollar and five dollar slots you'll find a happy home. The restaurants and snack shops are the best, a clear reflection of Jack Binion's emphasis on high quality food for the best value.

Harrah's East Chicago Hotel & Casino: A big, comfortable spacious vessel with adjoining hotel tower featuring top-quality accommodations. The gaming atmosphere is colorful and vibrant, with a huge selection of nickel slots and other denominations. The property recently upgraded its video poker and slot product, and is in the process of a $27-million renovation that'll make it even more attractive.

Majestic Star & Trump Casino & Hotel Gary: The two operations share the same pavilion in Buffington Harbor, where recent developments include a renovated buffet and the addition of the Koko Taylor Blues Club. The best video poker in the Chicago area can be found at these properties, plus they are the only ones in the Chicago area to offer two-cent slots and nickel Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play video poker.

ILLINOIS

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin: The only remaining Illinois riverboat facility in the Chicago area, it is the casino of choice for high-end slot and craps players. The five-dollar slot selection is the best in this market, while video poker and nickel game options are slim. The craps pit is the best in the Chicago area.

Hollywood Casino Aurora: In spite of the fact the casino is situated on a comfortable single-level barge, this property is becoming tired and neglected. The on-vessel snack shop is the worst in this market, while the slot inventory has grown stale. This is a property desperately in need of energizing.

Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel: This property was also becoming a little tired, but recently there have been signs of revitalization. There have been efforts to upgrade and increase the video poker product. The slot machine inventory, however, is getting a little stale.

Argosy's Empress Casino & Hotel: An invigorated promotion schedule coupled with an outstanding player's club keeps this attractive 2-level barge facility on sure footing. The video poker product is as solid as it gets in Illinois. As is the case with all the other Illinois properties hamstrung by a hostile tax structure, upgrades to the slot product are needed.

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