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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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Reader Survey Results

18 July 2006

It's the time of the year that the polls come out --- the results of the reader surveys in Midwest Gaming & Travel and Casino Player magazines.

I always find the results fascinating as I look at who readers have chosen as the best casino in a given area, who has the best video poker, the best player rewards and so on. There are some built-in biases in the process. Casinos in high-population areas have an advantage over those with smaller customer bases. Temptation for casinos to do a little ballot-box stuffing is strong, though John Busam, publisher at Midwest Gaming & Travel, care is taken to weed out suspicious ballots.

Winners get bragging rights through the next year. Advertising from winning casinos will blare the news. I've received press releases already from Resorts East Chicago touting its placing first, second or third in 22 Best of Gaming categories from Casino Player, and from Grand Victoria in Elgin, promoting its second consecutive Casino Player victory as best overall casino in the Chicago market.

Midwest Gaming and Travel does riverboat casinos and tribal casinos in separate issues --- June for the boats, July for the Native Americans --- and divides its winners by states. Casino Player does it all in a mammoth July issue, and divides by markets. Tribal casinos are divided by region --- the Native Midwest, for example, includes casinos in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

Next week, I want to revisit the surveys just a bit to look at several Midwestern markets. Michigan is an interesting case, with both land-based commercial casinos and Native American casinos in the same state. But for now, let's just break down the Chicago winners. Among the Casino Player awards, I'll list only the first-place finishers. The magazine also lists seconds and thirds.

Blue Chip, Michigan City:
Casino Player Chicagoland: room packages.

Empress Joliet
Midwest Gaming & Travel Illinois: video poker; pavilion ambience/décor; comfortable pavilion; pavilion amenities; best lounge (Zanzibar); live entertainment; themed restaurant for Café Casablanca.

Grand Victoria, Elgin
Casino Player Chicagoland: overall casino; comps; cashback; dealers; hosts; high-limit slot area; luckiest casino; blackjack; roulette.

Harrah's, Joliet
Midwest Gaming & Travel Illinois: casino hotel; direct mail offers; players club; players club parties; comfortable hotel rooms; VIP lounge; VIP lounge food; VIP lounge service; comfortable VIP lounge; casino hosts. Casino Player Chicagoland: players club; casino promotions; service; reel slots; video poker.

Hollywood, Aurora
Midwest Gaming & Travel Illinois: favorite casino; selection of slots; high-limit area; poker room; comfortable poker room; poker comps; poker tournaments, slot attendants; fine dining for Fairbanks steak house; buffet. Casino Player Chicagoland: overall theme.

Horseshoe, Hammond
Midwest Gaming & Travel Indiana: high limit area, direct mail, players club, players club parties, hosts, buffet. Casino Player Chicagoland: craps.

Majestic Star, Gary
Midwest Gaming & Travel Indiana: video poker, friendly staff, knowledgeable staff, sports bar for Don & Mike's), themed restaurant for Koko Taylor's Blues Café.

Resorts East Chicago
Midwest Gaming & Travel Indiana: VIP lounge; VIP lounge food; comfortable VIP lounge. Casino Player Chicagoland: overall hotel casino; overall hotel; hotel rooms; hotel suites; innovative slot floor; high-limit players lounge; video slots.

A couple of notes. Harrah's Joliet and Horseshoe in Hammond both fare very well in the players club categories. As Harrah's Entertainment-owned properties, both are on the Total Rewards system. Busam says Total Rewards did very well not just in Illinois and Indiana, but across the board, wherever there are Harrah's properties.

Majestic Star winning in Indiana for both Don & Mike's sports bar and Koko Taylor's Blues Café is a landmark for the property. Majestic Star and its neighbor formerly known as Trump (now Majestic Star II) struggled with food service for years. Winning in two food service categories is a big step forward.

There are a few interesting differences in the two surveys, such as Hollywood winning for favorite Illinois casino in Midwest Gaming & Travel, but Grand Victoria winning for best overall casino in Casino Player. One that caught my eye was Empress winning for best video poker in Illinois, and Harrah's winning for best video poker in Chicagoland. The Casino Player voters swung and missed on that one. Harrah's has many, many strengths, but its video poker is not among them, while Empress has long been strong in video poker.

**BIG JACKPOT: Grand Victoria has had a number of big jackpot winners on its $5 Five Times Pay progressive machines lately, but Norberto V. from Chicago has become the biggest winner yet. At about 2:16 a.m. on June 27, he hit for $730,381.

As far as I know this is the largest slot jackpot ever won in Illinois, and in the Chicago area. Illinois and Indiana don't have the wide-area progressives such as Megabucks that have several casinos feeding into the same jackpot, so we don't have the big multimillion-dollar bonanzas. In the mid-1990s, Par-A-Dice in East Peoria paid out a jackpot of more than $600,000 on its $1 Big Hit progressives, and Grand Victoria has had one previous winner of more than $600,000. No one keeps official records, but until I hear otherwise, I'm calling this one the biggest ever in the Chicago area.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

Articles in this Series
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