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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Boyd Gaming Corp. officials hope a $130 million hotel expansion at its Blue Chip riverboat casino will keep Chicago residents from traveling 10 miles farther north on U.S. Highway 12.
The Blue Chip is in Michigan City, Ind., about 60 miles east of Chicago. However, the casino was losing customers to the Four Winds resort, an American Indian casino just past the state line in neighboring southwestern Michigan. Four Winds opened in August 2007.
The lucrative Chicago market is an important revenue source. That's why Boyd Gaming's senior management, including company founder Bill Boyd, Chief Executive Officer Keith Smith and Chief Operating Officer Paul Chakmak, traveled to the 20-degree, snowy Midwest to welcome a 302-room hotel.
"We have faced unprecedented new competition in this market," Chakmak said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "We wanted to respond by making a bold statement."
Analysts think the Blue Chip expansion will help the property appeal not only to Chicago customers, but potential customers in nearby Indiana cities of Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.
The hotel expansion was the final piece of a $300 million effort by Boyd Gaming to upgrade the property.
Another aspect of the Blue Chip was a tribute to the company's former Strip resort. The 20,000-square-foot entertainment and meeting facility was named the Stardust Events Center.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are floating an idea to legalize table games at the state's casinos and racinos. But most observers put long odds on the legislation passing.
The state's budget shortfall is nearing $2 billion. Taxing casino revenue generated by craps, blackjack and roulette is on the table. Pennsylvania has a 53 percent tax rate on slot revenues.
Fourteen slot machine-only casinos were approved a few years ago. Just seven are now operating. Since the opening of the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in 2006, the casinos have generated $2 billion in tax revenue.
A spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said gambling expansion should wait until other casinos open, including locations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. is planning to open the $675 million Sands Bethlehem, a 3,000-slot machine casino on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel Mill, during the second quarter.
Longtime gaming spokesman Reggie Burton has launched his own public relations business, RBC. Burton, who directed communications for MGM Mirage's corporate diversity efforts since 2005, also spent time handling spokesman duties with the Mandalay Resort Group at the property and corporate levels.
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