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NWI casino revenue a mixed bag

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Casino revenues rallied a bit in March after two straight months of decline, although three of the five Northwest Indiana casinos posted losses from March 2010.

The five boats brought in $109.27 million last month, up 1 percent, or $1.08 million, from 12 months ago. March's total, however, soared $15.67 million over February's totals and was nearly $19 million higher than January's


The downward spiral for the first two months of 2011 was statewide and caused pessimistic forecasts from some experts, including Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight.

"That is not a good thing," Feigenbaum told The Times early last month. "Certainly you can say the weather in 2011 was more challenging than in 2010, but we are still down an awful lot."

However, the March figures had Feigenbaum expressing more optimism.

"This is a normal kind of March for us," he said. "No decrease (in revenues) is a positive."

The first quarter of the year usually represents the riverboats' best revenues for any three-month period, Feigenbaum said.

Ameristar Casino in East Chicago, one of the hardest-hit casinos last year because of the recession and the Cline Avenue Bridge closure, posted one of only two gains in March, with a 2.44 percent increase year-to-year. The other casino seeing a positive change was Blue Chip in Michigan City, with a gain of 2 percent.

Feigenbaum said customers who originally found it more difficult to reach Ameristar after the bridge closure now seem to be coming back to the East Chicago casino.

"The traffic patterns have been friendlier," he said. New signs along Cline Avenue now help guide patrons to those casinos with more ease, he said.

Horseshoe in Hammond overcame a double-digit drop in February by bringing in nearly $10 million more in March. That figure, however, represented a 2.88 percent decline in revenue from March 2010.

But Horseshoe Casino General Manager Dan Nita said March's figures represented only the third time that an Indiana casino has exceeded the $50 million mark in revenues.

"We are encouraged by having a strong March," he said. "We've been able to rebound."

Nita attributed the overall performance of Northwest Indiana casinos to seasonal factors.

"March is a good month for us. People are tired of being cooped up and want to get out. It's too early to go to the beach, and baseball season hasn't started," he said. "We provide different types of entertainment."


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