New Blue Chip Casino Deals Gamblers a Royal Flush - Tuesday 14th of March 2006

A visit to the new Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City is as close to a Las Vegas-style gambling experience that you will find in the greater Chicago area.

That's the impression this columnist came away with following the January 31 grand opening of the $170 million vessel, which boasts more square footage of gaming space, 65,000 to be exact, than any of the competition.

But it's more than the sheer size of the casino that hits you when you first walk in. It's the attention to detail, including lighting, the high ceilings (14 to 20 feet), the aisle space, the marble pathways and elegant décor that clearly puts the new Blue Chip in a class by itself in this market.

There are riverboat casinos in Indiana with more square footage of gaming space, including the Argosy Lawrenceburg on the Ohio border with 78,000 sq. ft. and Caesars in Elizabeth on the Kentucky border with 86,500 sq. ft. but both of them are conventional multi-level vessels that always make you remember you're on a boat.

The Blue Chip's inventory of more than 2,100 slot and video poker machines and 51 table games are located on a single level aboard a United States Coast Guard certified vessel that was constructed with the largest hull size of any riverboat casino in the nation. With no stairs or escalators needed to access your favorite games and plenty of room to move about, you'll have the feeling you're in a land-based casino.

Whereas Illinois permits casinos aboard permanently docked barges, Indiana regulations hold fast to the riverboat requirement. It's to the credit of Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, the owner and operator of the Blue Chip that they chose to make the investment in a boat that must abide by all marine standards yet will never move.

"This was the only way we could do it," explained Judy Campbell, the Blue Chip's vice president and general manager. "I can only speak for Blue Chip, but I do believe the company recognizes we've been a very valuable part of the portfolio and I believe they wanted to improve it. On weekends we were at capacity functionally, so in order to grow the business this is part of what we needed to do.

The main casino, which includes an imaginative selection of slots and a wide variety of table games, is flanked on either side by big sections devoted exclusively to the popular penny, two-cent and nickel games. There's an emphasis on progressive banks and themed carousels adorned with attractive Las Vegas-style signage.

The comfort level gamblers will find aboard the new Blue Chip is unsurpassed. In addition to a dedicated non-smoking area, the air quality in the entire casino is managed by a state-of-the-art system that exchanges air from the outside only up to 15 times an hour.

There's an emphasis on convenience as well. Two full-service cashier stations are supported by 16 banking centers that feature self-serve bill breaker and ticket redemption kiosks along with ATM machines.

"The new Blue Chip is comfort at its best," Campbell added. "With the old boat, we didn't have the ability to think about that. Now I think we have the product that will make people go that extra mile to come to our casino."

Casino News: The Blue Chip has added a "Lucky Shooter" bonus to its craps tables. Any shooter who places a minimum wager on the pass line and proceeds to make very point (four, five, six, eight, nine and 10) on the same roll before a seven receives a bonus of $1,000. The property's vice-president and general manager, Judy Campbell, reports the bonus was paid three times during the first week.

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