MICHIGAN CITY – In a line filled with Bears jerseys, Jared Christensen's Packers No. 12 stood out prominently right at the front of the public line for the official opening of the FanDuel SportsBook at Blue Chip Casino Resort & Spa on Thursday morning.
"I was in the right place at the right time," the Michigan City resident said. "It was like 9:15, 9:30 and they said this was where the line was going to start. It was cool being the first one."
A co-worker covered Christensen, a life-long Green Bay fan, for a couple hours so he could place his Packers plus three-and-a-half bet for Thursday night, and a three-game parlay involving games on Sunday – not to mention a libation or two.
"This is great," Christensen said. "I was telling the bartender this is way better than Vegas Baby. You can come in, place your bets; it's open for the game; they've got food. It's awesome."
The actual first wager went to special guest Brian Urlacher, the Bears Hall of Fame linebacker who put $54 (his number as a player) on, of course, Chicago for Thursday night's season opener.
"I never thought I would be making bets like this outside of Vegas," Urlacher said. "It's amazing. It gives people more reasons to watch the game. I've been to the ones in Vegas and this isn't much different than the ones in Vegas. There are a lot of TVs, places to sit, a nice bar, and I'm sure the food is good as well."
David Strow, spokesman for Boyd Gaming, owner of Blue Chip, was happy they were able to bring it all together in time for the start of the season, given who was playing in the opener of the NFL's 100th season.
"It's not just a place to go and place a bet," he said. "We put the effort into creating a sports betting experience that's really distinctive, very inviting, here in the Fan Duel SportsBook or at The Game. You have a place where you can really enjoy the game. I think this will be the finest sports book in all of Indiana, our crown jewel of the Midwest."
Blue Chip joins Boyd outlets in Mississippi and Pennsylvania that offer sports wagering.
"We've been doing this as a company for over 40 years. It's a business we know very well," Strow said. "It's been extremely popular in our other markets. The response from our customers has been tremendous.
"There's just such excitement about the opportunity to legally wager on sports. Based on what we've seen, I think this book will do tremendous for Blue Chip and Michigan City. It's an opportunity to introduce Blue Chip to customers we may not have reached before, to increase the visitation of the property and Michigan City," he said.
"There's no secret Northwest Indiana is a very competitive market. We've always known we've got to be at the top of our game if we're going to draw people and this is another amenity that will give us another competitive advantage."
Brenda Temple, vice president and general manager of Blue Chip, liked how the casino was able to fit the sports book into an existing area that had been a night club.
"I don't know that anybody can duplicate this," she said. "We've always had the sports bar that's very popular. This allows us to leverage both and also adds to the square footage on the casino floor without having it on the casino floor.
"It's a great place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon. We have seen an incredible response from our customers in Mississippi and Pennsylvania when we introduced sports betting at those properties, and I expect no less for Blue Chip."
The casino is the fourth FanDuel sports book site collaborating with Boyd Gaming.
"We're hoping what it will be is the premiere sports book in the region, and we're looking forward to a world-class sports betting operation here at Blue Chip," FanDuel vice president of retail operations Keith Wall said.
Mitch Fiekes of La Porte was afforded VIP access thanks to his wife Karyl, a member of the City Council, and was the first person after Urlacher to make an investment at 10:18 a.m. He plunked down a few bucks on the Bears, Purdue and Syracuse.
"I was going to bet on each of our kids' colleges, but Johns Hopkins doesn't have a football team," he said.
"I'll play $20 here or there. It's not something I'm going to frequent but I think a lot of people will. There's a lot of sports betting going on, and with it being legitimate now, the state will make money. It makes it fun."
BEAR ON BEARS
After placing his bet Thursday, Brian Urlacher took time to compare the current Bears teams to his 2006 squad that went to the Super Bowl.
– See SPORTS, page B1