Northern Indiana casino adding $130M hotel tower - Tuesday 3rd of February 2009

The opening of a new 22-story, glass-walled hotel has Blue Chip casino hoping for bigger crowds of gamblers than it has seen since a nearby Michigan casino opened more than a year ago.

The casino plans a grand opening for its new $130 million hotel on Thursday in its most-visible effort to compete with the Four Winds Casino Resort that opened about 10 miles away in August 2007 and the new $485 million gambling barge at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond that opened last summer.

The Blue Chip hotel, designed in shades of blue to mimic nearby Lake Michigan, towers over the surrounding landscape and includes the 15,000-square-foot Stardust event center, the 10,000-square foot Spa Blu and new bars and restaurants.

David Strow, a spokesman for Blue Chip owner Boyd Gaming Corp., said the hotels luxury spa was unique for any casinos in the Chicago area and was an amenity that has been popular in Las Vegas.

"What were working toward and what we believe we will become is a regional entertainment destination," Strow told The Times of Munster. "Were offering a wide variety of amenities that other competitors may offer, but not under one roof."

Blue Chips business has been badly battered since the opening of the Four Winds casino, which is owned by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Blue Chip saw its monthly revenue fall from $26.7 million in July 2007 to $16.1 million a year later - a decline of nearly 40 percent.

State records show Blue Chip had nearly 1.7 million admissions in 2006 - before Four Winds opened - but fewer than 1.1 million in 2008.

The 250 jobs at the new hotel arent the only benefit to the local community, said John Regetz, executive director of the Michigan City Economic Development Corp.

"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."

John Busam, the editor of Midwest Gaming & Travel, said the opening of the new hotel also comes at a good time as the recession has gamblers looking for places closer to home to spend a few days at a full-service destination.

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