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Best of John Grochowski

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Tribal Casino Evolves Into Michigan Jewel

16 February 2000

When I received an invitation to speak at the Midwest Networking Conference at Chip-In's Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Mich., I had an idea of what to expect.

Michigan is dotted with small tribal casinos, many less than half the size of an average Chicago area riverboat. I looked up Chip-In in the 1999 American Casino Guide, and found a listing for a 15,000-square-foot casino - about what I expected. But there was also a note on new construction that was due early this year.

New construction indeed. The old 15,000 square feet have mostly been absorbed by the bingo hall. Now there are about 55,000 square feet of casino space, along with a new hotel, showroom and restaurants. A tropical island theme is carried throughout the operation - the indoor pool even has a sand beach.

What's there now is a showcase casino, as attractive as any in the Midwest. Designers did a great job on the floor layout, with eye-catching lighted displays in all corners of the casino.

The slot floor includes new equipment from several manufacturers - IGT's Vision series and Elvis! slots, Williams' Monopoly and Reel 'Em In games and Anchor's Cash Ball games abound, alongside a variety of video slots and traditional reel-spinners.

There are no standout, 100 percent video poker games, but players will find Williams Multi-Pay plus machines, complete with the blackjack game that has largely disappeared in the Chicago area.

Table blackjack includes double-deck games that are strong plays for basic-strategy players. The dealer stands on all 17s, and the player may double down on any two cards, including after splits. Card counters won't like the game because about half the cards are cut out of play, but for anyone else it's a step up from six-deck shoes. Table minimums started at $3 - yep, a good double-deck blackjack game for three bucks a hand.

Also offered on the tables are craps, roulette, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride and Paul-Son Poker.

Harris is on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, near Escanaba. That's beautiful country in its own right. Chip-In's Island Resort and Casino is worth a look as a vacation destination.

CONFERENCING: The Midwest Networking Conference is an annual event, bringing together representatives from tribal casinos in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. For both days of the conference, seminars covered seven tracks - leadership; operations and human resources; marketing; gaming; loss prevention; food and beverage, and liabilities protection.

Needless to say, I was on the gaming track, speaking one day on new table games and the next on new slot machines. I got to do some cross-track mingling myself, though. I had lunch the first day with a Secret Service agent who was invited to speak about counterfeiting and fraud.

Next year's conference will be at another showcase property, the 85,000-square-foot Kewadin Casino Hotel in Sault Ste. Marie, also on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

BAD ADVICE: When I got home from the conference, I found my wife had bookmarked a page for me online at Digital City Chicago. There was an article on going to a casino for the first time, and it included some of the worst advice on gambling I've ever seen.

Two items particularly caught my attention. First, it suggested that you treat any winnings as the casino's money, and play with that. Second, it said there were places to learn about gambling, but that really the best way was to just go experience it.

That's worse than bad advice. It's downright dangerous. Following advice like that is how casino bankrolls are padded and player bankrolls are drained.

There is very little a player can do that is worse than treating winnings as "their money." As soon as you've won it, it becomes your money. If you want to gamble with it, that's up to you. But if you'd rather use it to buy a nice dinner, see a movie, put it in the bank or buy magazines to support the latest PTA fund-raiser, that's also up to you. You don't have to give the money back.

As for experiencing gambling without boning up first, you might as well throw raw meat to the sharks. Even on something as simple as the slot machines, players need to know the differences among progressive machines, multipliers and buy-a-pays, which are safe for one-coin play and which should be played only with maximum-coin bets, and how to take advantage of slot clubs and promotions.

Be prepared before you play. Read about the games, talk with more experienced players, practice on the computer or with a deck of cards. Don't just wing it. Casinos don't need an extra edge from uninformed players - but they'll take it.

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:

> 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