Blue Chips Bets Big

October 31, 2006
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MICHIGAN CITY — A former bankroller of Michigan anti-gaming efforts is gearing up for a $130 million addition, as Las Vegas gambling interest Boyd Gaming revealed in its third quarter financial results plans to build a 22-story hotel at its Blue Chip Casino property on the Michigan-Indiana border.

To be completed in 2008, the hotel will cost $130 million and will add some 300 rooms to the complex, which already has a 184-room hotel. The new space will also include a spa and fitness center, additional meeting and event space, new dining and nightlife experiences and a more dramatic entrance.

Rob Stillwell, Boyd Gaming’s vice president of corporate communications, told The News Dispatch in Michigan City that the new hotel will be built to the north of the existing casino facility, not far from its entrance off U.S. 12 and along Trail Creek.

“We’re still refining the design details, so we won’t have a rendering until we’re ready to break ground,” he said. “We’ll integrate it so it will look like it was all part of the original plan.”

Sue Bietry, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the announcement was exciting and that the additional hotel rooms would benefit the local economy.

“I knew they were planning an expansion. This was all part of their plan,” she said. “I think it’s great they’re expanding. It’s a good thing for the community.”

Blue Chip opened a new, $170 million casino boat in January that doubled the amount of gaming space in the company’s original riverboat. That boat now sits vacant at the stern of the new boat and, said Stillwell, is being dismantled. This month marked the launch of the casino’s new poker room, a competitive advantage over neighboring Indiana casinos.

The whirlwind expansion comes at a time when Blue Chip is preparing to face new competition from a land-based tribal casino under construction about 12 miles to the north near New Buffalo, Mich., along with further competition in subsequent years from the FireKeepers Casino near Battle Creek and the proposed Gun Lake Casino in Wayland Township.

Boyd officials maintain that the Michigan tribal casinos are not a driving force in its expansion efforts at Blue Chip. The company, however, famously bankrolled lobbying efforts against all three casinos parallel to opposition from religious groups and Grand Rapids economic interests.

During Boyd Gaming’s third quarter report, its Central Region, which includes Blue Chip Casino, had a 16.8 percent revenue increase to $241.1 million over the same period in 2005.    

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