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Ameristar Casino opened its high limit slots and table games room

Ameristar Casino in East Chicago opened a high limit slots and table games room last year. The first land-based gaming venue in Northwest Indiana helped Ameristar post a year-over-year revenue gain of more than 7 percent in 2018.

Northwest Indiana's casinos closed 2018 on strong note in December, taking in $77.8 million at their table games and slot machines, a 7.9 percent increase from the same month a year ago.

December brought the Region's casinos within one-half percent of 2017's total. The $934.2 million "win" was $4.3 million short of the previous year's.

Horseshoe Casino Senior Vice President and General Manager Dan Nita called December "a pretty strong way to finish the year. We were able to pick-up nearly half the year's deficit in one month."

Good weather and the calendar helped, Nita suggested.

"We had stronger holiday week volume than we have in past years," he said, noting that the Monday New Year's Eve essentially created a long holiday weekend.

Ameristar Casino in East Chicago led the way, both for December and the year. Its $19.5 million December win was a 9.6 percent increase; its $231.6 million total was up 7.2 percent from 2017.

Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City concluded a challenging year with a strong December, up 7.1 percent to $13.2 million. Its annual win of $152.4 million was down 3.7 percent, during a year that included the opening of the Four Winds Casino in South Bend.

Blue Chip's December gain was almost entirely at its slot machines, which faced the brunt of the competition from Four Winds. The strong month helped reduce the casino's 2018 decline to 3.7 percent, or $152.4 million.

The state's largest casino, Hammond's Horseshoe, posted a 1 percent increase in December, to $32.7 million, giving it a total for the year of $398.7 million, down 2.9 percent from 2017.

The Majestic Star casinos in Gary combined for a 5.4 percent increase, to $12.7 million. For the year, the two casinos had gaming revenue of $151.5 million, down 1.5 percent from the prior year.

The state as a whole tracked the Region's performance, up 3.7 percent in December to $191.4 million, and up 0.5 percent for the year to $2.2 billion. In December, the state's 13 gambling establishments paid $51.5 million in wagering taxes to the state.

Horseshoe's Nita said Chicago-area casinos on the Illinois side of the state line declined 1.3 percent in 2018.

Casino operators have entered 2019 with a close eye on the Indiana General Assembly, which is considering a proposal to move one Majestic Star casino license inland, and the possibility of moving its second elsewhere in the state. State legislators are also considering legalizing sports-related gambling.

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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.