Among the four gaming companies that have operated the riverboat casino destination located in East Chicago during the last 20 years, its current proprietor, Ameristar, is the owner for the longest duration with a history that began in 2007.
After nearly a decade of stewardship under Ameristar, a company founded in 1954 by the late Craig Neilsen, the property is vibrant and flourishing. In fact, credit Ameristar for saving the East Chicago operation from the depths of stagnation.
In the wake of the 1993 legislation that paved the way for state-sanctioned riverboat casino gambling in Indiana, the East Chicago location opened under the banner of Showboat Mardi Gras Casino in 1997.
Showboat rode a wave of the success of the newly introduced Las Vegas-style entertainment in Northwest Indiana for two years before it was sold to Harrah’s Entertainment in the spring of 1998.
It was under the powerful Harrah’s brand, fueled in great measure by its Total Rewards player’s club program and a sister property in Joliet, Illinois, that a giant gaming footprint was established in East Chicago.
Harrah’s took the property to the next level by opening a splendid hotel complex, incorporating a regionwide marketing strategy, and infusing new life into the gaming floor with a promotions engine unrivaled in the Region.
When the property was sold rather unexpectedly to Resorts International in the summer of 2005, a two-year period of malaise began during which little to no investment was made. The East Chicago riverboat casino and hotel grew old, dusty and weary from neglect.
Then along came a “knight in shining armor.”
Ameristar, which was in a national expansion mode, sealed a deal to purchase it in 2007. The company, which