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Majestic Star Casino

The Majestic Star Casinos entrance is shown. The two boats at Gary's Buffington Harbor have been welcoming gamblers since 1996.

Bad weather in early February kept attendance low at Northwest Indiana's casinos, helping lead to a nearly 10 percent year-over-year drop in gaming revenue.

February was "all about the weather," Majestic Star Senior Vice President and General Manager Barry Cregan said. "I've worked in Atlantic City, Connecticut and here now for three years. When you have that much snow people don't want to get on the roads."

Patron admissions declined 16.2 percent year-over-year at at the lakeshore casinos, to 662,922.

Because of the bad weather the first part of the month, the impact of the new Four Winds South Bend, which only offers slot-machine gaming, remains unclear, casino executives said.

"It was a tough month to analyze," Ameristar Senior Vice President and General Manager Matt Schuffert said. "The story in early February was definitely the weather."

Horseshoe Hammond Vice President Steve Cox said Four Winds' impact should become clearer in coming months. "A nice clean month will help us decide," he said. "March will be more of a telling story as to what Four Winds is doing to the entire market." 

Northwest Indiana's casinos collectively recorded a 9.9 percent drop in gaming revenue for the month, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission's monthly revenue report. Horseshoe in Hammond and Ameristar in East Chicago each declined 8.1 percent, Majestic Star in Gary was off 11.1 percent and Blue Chip in Michigan City was down 15.9 percent year-over-year.

The declines were focused on the slot-machine side of the business, where play was down more than 13 percent and the casinos' win was down more than 12 percent. Patrons gambled $566 million in the electronic games in February, down from $652.3 million the same month a year ago. The casinos' take was $55 million this year; it was $62.8 million last year.

Meanwhile, table-game play was down 3 percent, to $74.2 million, but the casinos' win was level at $16.1 million.

"Tables as a whole are a good story," Cox said. "We had strong volume throughout the entire month."

Schuffert said business rebounded with the weather. "The second half of the month was much busier," he said. "And March has started off much better."

Chicago-area casinos on the Illinois side of the state line recorded a revenue decline of 6 percent in February, Cox said.

In Indiana, the 13 state-regulated gambling establishments saw a gaming revenue drop of 8.3 percent to $170.1 million, according to the gaming commission. That included the hit taken along the Ohio River when flooding caused casinos closures. Horseshoe Southern Indiana's revenue dropped a full third, to $13.5 million. 

The state's share of admissions and wagering taxes was down 8.1 percent year-over-year, to $51.5 million.


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.