|By Susan Erler, The Times, Munster,
Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 19, 2009 - MICHIGAN CITY--Blue Chip casino officials are pinning their hopes on a new $130 million hotel to transform the gambling hall and help it regain market share lost to a rival casino.
Blue Chip plans to unveil the 22-story, glass-walled structure Jan. 22 to kick off a weekend celebration for top customers, said David Strow, spokesman for Blue Chip Casino parent Boyd Gaming Corp.
"Obviously we're pretty excited to reach this milestone," Strow said.
The 250 new jobs created by the hotel aren't the only benefit to the local community, said John Regetz, executive director of the Michigan City Economic Development Corporation.
"We also look for it to bring in visitors who spend money in the community and enjoy the recreational activities we have here," Regetz said.
"It also provides great exposure for our community as a place to locate new businesses."
The hotel caps an expansion of the Michigan City property that includes a spacious new Blue Chip riverboat launched in 2006, intended to ward off competition from the sprawling, land-based Four Winds Casino Resort, which opened in August 2007 in nearby New Buffalo, Mich.
The Blue Chip hotel, designed in shades of blue to mimic nearby Lake Michigan, towers over the Northwest Indiana landscape and houses the 15,000-square-foot Stardust event center, the 10,000-square foot Spa Blu and new bars and restaurants, including Las Vegas-themed "It's Vegas Baby" and sportsbook-themed "The Game."
The luxury spa, unlike anything in the Chicago area casino market, Strow said, "is an amenity that's worked well at many Las Vegas casinos."
"What we're working toward and what we believe we will become is a regional entertainment destination," Strow said, rivaling even the $500 million expanded Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, with its star-power auditorium.
At Blue Chip, "We're offering a wide variety of amenities that other competitors may offer, but not under one roof," Strow said.
The strategy could prove successful in helping Blue Chip rebuild business that has steadily declined since the Four Winds casino opened, with Blue Chip monthly revenue falling to $16.1 million in July 2008 from $26.7 million a year earlier.
"We've traditionally seen that when a property in Indiana opens a new hotel or tower or other kinds of amenities, the buzz tends to go up," said Ed Feigenbaum, whose Indiana Gaming Insights tracks the state's gambling industry.
Ads for the new hotel have started appearing on Indianapolis area television stations, Feigenbaum said.
"One of the things they're trying to accomplish is to generate additional on-site stays. They want people to view that as a destination," Feigenbaum said.
From a marketing perspective, "the opening of the new hotel tower comes at a good time, said John Busam, editor of Midwest Gaming & Travel.
The economic downturn has gamblers looking for places closer to home to spend a few days in a full service gambling destination, Busam said.
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