Subscribe for 33¢ / day
For NWI casinos, it's been 20 years and $20 billion

The high-limit room at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, one of the table game areas in the casino's 108,000-square-foot gaming facility. The Region's casinos held their gaming revenue steady in 2017 on strong growth in table-game play.

Northwest Indiana's casinos closed 2017 with a strong December that left gaming revenue for the year essentially level with 2016. A December win of $74.2 million — up 1.3 percent from the same month a year ago — brought their total for the year to $938.5 million, less than a percentage point below 2016.

December's gains closed an up-and-down year that saw six months each of year-over-year increases and decreases, according to monthly revenue reports issued by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

December saw strong gains from the casinos' table games nearly offset a small decline from slot machines. Strong table play and declining slot machine play has typified the year.

"We're encouraged by our table game business and we're doing everything we can to keep our slots on par with previous performance," Horseshoe Hammond Senior Vice President and General Manager Dan Nita said.

Table win grew 11.1 percent to $17.3 million, while slot win dropped 1.4 percent to $56.9 million.

Gary's Majestic Star casinos led the Region on a percentage basis, up 3.5 percent to $12.1 million. Blue Chip in Michigan City posted a 2.3 percent gain to $12.3 million. Horseshoe and East Chicago's Ameristar just tipped the positive side, with increases under 1 percent, to $32.1 million for Horseshoe and $17.8 million for Ameristar. 

Nita said a good December calendar — with five full weekends — was mitigated somewhat by bad weather during the last week of the year.

Admissions were down 4.1 percent in December as compared to a year ago, to just over 714,000.

For the year, about 3 percent fewer customers crossed the casinos' thresholds then in 2016, for a total guest count of 4.6 million. But the casinos tended to attract more lucrative customers, as reflected in the increased table-game play and in the casinos' win-per-guest — up 2.3 percent to $203 per admission in 2017.

Chicago area casinos in Illinois did better in December than Northwest Indiana's, with a revenue increase of 3.2 percent.

In Indiana, gaming win totaled $184.6 million at the state's 13 gambling establishments. That represented a 3.4 percent gain over last December. For the year, the state saw $2.3 billion in gaming win, up 1.6 percent from 2016.

Northwest Indiana's casinos face new competition beginning next week with the opening of Four Winds South Bend. Nita said it's natural for casino guests to try a new place, but "we definitely have plans in place" to encourage any who do venture east to come back.


Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.