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Video Poker Improvements at Resorts East Chicago

30 July 2005

It seems Mark Kashuda and I are becoming video poker comrades in arms. He wants to offer games that will attract players. I'm only to happy to make suggestions.

Kashuda, who is now director of slot operations at Resorts East Chicago, asked me to look over his video poker floor. He'd made some upgrades since the conversion from Harrah's to Resorts, and he wanted an outside opinion.

He and I had been down this road once before. When Kashuda was slot director at Trump Casino in Gary, he asked for advice on making his video poker competitive with that of Majestic Star, across the corridor in their shared Buffington Harbor Pavilion. He turned Trump into a very strong video poker option.

One look at the Resorts video poker floor was enough to know he'd brought it a long way. Harrah's East Chicago never was terribly competitive in video poker. Even when they added more games and boasted of higher pay tables last year, the pay tables were always second- or third-tier, not on a level with the two Gary casinos.

With the changeover from Harrah's to Resorts, Kashuda immediately made big strides forward. Most of the Double Bonus Poker games were upgraded to a 9-7-5 pay table, meaning full houses pay 9-for-1, flushes 7-for-1 and straights 5-for-1. That's a 99.1 percent game with expert play. Double Double Bonus Poker was upgraded to the 9-6 pay table (99 percent).

I had a only a couple of quibbles with the crop of games I saw. The biggest problem area was a bank of Double Bonus games with progressive jackpots. These had 8-5-4 pay tables, several steps beneath the 9-7-5 paybacks on non-progressive games. Lower pay tables are expected on games with progressive jackpots because the casino is diverting a share of wagers to the royal flush jackpot. My suggestion was that the pay tables be raised to 9-6-5.

The other main quibble had to do with Deuces Wild. Most of the games on this trip to Resorts had a "fooler" pay table, paying 4-for-1 on both four of a kinds and full houses, and 3-for-1 on flushes, just like "Not So Ugly" Deuces (99.7 percent with expert play) or "Illinois" Deuces (98.9). These foolers dropped the wild royals paybacks to 20-for-1 instead of 25-for-1, and five of a kind to 12-for-1 instead of the 16-for-1 on NSU Deuces or 15-for-1 on Illinois Deuces. The effect is to drop the return with expert play to 97.1 percent.

I know from the experience with Trump that when Kashuda thanked me for the input, he wasn't just being kind. The upgrades he's already made --- and I think there will be more --- show video poker players have a friend in East Chicago. And as a video poker player myself, I'm always happy to help a friend who wants to give me better games.

***

Resorts East Chicago is on its third owner, under its third name --- or maybe this is name number three-and-a-half, if we want to account for the brief transition from Showboat Mardi Gras to Showboat East Chicago to Harrah's East Chicago.

This change was different, though, in a way we're likely to see more and more in every casino jurisdiction in the United States. For the first time in Indiana's decade of gaming, a casino has changed owners and names at the same time. When Showboat merged into Harrah's, the Showboat name was kept for several months. The double switch this time posed its own problems.

"We had to change everything," general manager Joe DeRosa said over dinner at TJ's steakhouse, in the room that had been the French Quarter under both previous owner. "Every eprom in every machine had to be changed."

Part of the fallout from mega-mergers such as that between Harrah's and Caesars is that companies with too many casinos in the same jurisdiction will have to sell off individual properties. When this merger gave Harrah's three Indiana properties --- Horseshoe in Hammond and Caesars Indiana in Elizabeth, in addition to Harrah's East Chicago --- one had to go to satisfy Indiana law.

Resorts was ready and able to step in when the East Chicago property became available. Resorts East Chicago now is part of the Resorts casino family that includes the Las Vegas Hilton, Atlantic City Hilton, Resorts Tunica, Resorts Atlantic City and Bally's Tunica.

When the change was made, everything had to happen at once, forcing the casino to close its doors for a day. All Harrah's logos had to be removed from the casino, from table felts to wall displays. New gaming chips were needed for table play, and eproms --- computer chips in the slot machines --- licensed to Resorts had to be placed in the games under the watchful eyes of Indiana Gaming Commission representatives.

Now the Resorts team is looking ahead, and looking to hold the mid-level players that made up Harrah's base, while making itself more attractive to premium players, too. Upgrades in the casino, in the restaurants --- TJ's already seems an improvement over a French Quarter that had sagged a bit in recent years --- and throughout the property are in the works as Resorts tries to make its own name in the market.

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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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski