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Previewing Boyd Gaming's Blue Chip Casino Hotel in Michigan City

10 February 2009

Sometimes, it's the little touches that impress.

So it was when Boyd Gaming's Blue Chip Casino Hotel in Michigan City, Ind., previewed its new upscale Spa Blu hotel tower, two new restaurants and event center. A night before the Jan. 22 official opening, I found myself leaving my comfy room and heading downstairs to a party at the new restaurants It's Vegas Baby and The Game.

At It's Vegas Baby, I grabbed a few hot hors d'oeuvres and checked out the giant video screen behind the bandstand. There, film, photographs and music captured some of the excitement of Las Vegas past and present. Jack Benny at the Riviera. Danny Thomas at the Sands. Andy Williams at Caesars Palace. Tributes to casino owners and developers Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn — and, of course, Sam Boyd.

I liked it. A lot. And what I really liked was the self confidence to use all of Vegas to create atmosphere, and not just Boyd Gaming's part in it.

And I liked The Game, a sports bar that's been given a Las Vegas sports book feel, with multiple TV screens along with electronic boards displaying odds, scores and time remaining in dozens of game. You can't bet on the games here — it's illegal under federal law — but the sports book look adds that touch of Vegas.

Of course, there's much, much more to like about the new Blu Tower, a 22-story, 302-room luxury hotel with a 10,000 square-foot spa, full-service salon and fitness center, the 20,000-square foot Stardust Event Center for conferences, trade shows, entertainment and special events, and, of course, the new restaurants.

It's the latest step in a continual upgrade Boyd has made since acquiring Blue Chip in 1999. Three years ago, Boyd moved the gaming side of the operation off the original boat onto its new facility with 75,000 square feet of casino space on a single level. Now comes the hotel complex, which Boyd hopes will draw customers throughout the region.

"It's not simply a hotel addition, it's the completion of the vision we had for this property to create a true regional entertainment resort," said Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith, who was there for the opening. "If you look at the major gaming entertainment centers, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, what we've seen happen over the years is that they've evolved from purely casino-centric type properties solely focused on the casinos to more resort destinations with lots of restaurants and shopping and retail, beautiful hotels and a lot to do — entertainment. That doesn't exist in many of these regional markets, it doesn't exist here in this northwest Indiana-Chicago market, and it was our vision to create that here. A couple years ago when we opened the new boat that as the first step in doing that. Clearly the new boat was a big step up from the old boat. This hotel along with the spa and the new restaurants and the new porte-cochere is a continuation of that vision of creating a true regional destination."

Through Boyd's B Connected players clubs, which unifies player rewards at the company's casinos in Nevada, New Jersey, the Midwest and the South, Blue Chip will be marketed to players in other regions. A transplanted Midwesterner now living in Las Vegas, for example, will have the opportunity to use rewards earned at the Orleans or Main Street Station on a trip to Michigan City.

The bigger part of the business for the resort will come from players closer to home, but far enough away that an overnight stay at a full-service resort is attractive.

"We certainly expect that it will expand our reach," Smith said. "We believe that whether it's Chicago or Indianapolis or Fort Wayne, this hotel, this product combined with the casino we have here and the restaurants we have here, will give people a reason to come and spend their money. And once again we have a wonderful hotel product that you could put in Chicago, and it would be very competitive in downtown Chicago, and you have a wonderful spa and wonderful restaurants, and it will attract people to come out of the Chicago market and want to come here and spend a night or two."

Smith pointed to the spa blu as a special attraction. Spas are an extremely popular attraction at upscale destination resorts in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and spa blu is the first of its kind at a casino property in the Chicago area. I'm not a spa person myself, and declined an offer to use services at the preview, but there's no doubt blu spa will be popular with its hair, manicure, pedicure and makeup services, a private makeover room for wedding parties and other groups, a fitness room with 10 weight training stations along with treadmills, elliptical machines and bikes, massage and body treatments and more.

For myself, I was happy with smaller features — the button panel next to the bed where I could control lights in the room or signal "do not disturb" at the push of a button. Beats getting out of bed and fumbling around the door because you've forgotten to hang the "do not disturb" sign on the outer handle.

It is sometimes the little things that impress.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski