MICHIGAN CITY — It’s been 22 years since Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa opened in Michigan City, and Nov. 21 marked 20 years since it joined the Boyd Gaming portfolio.

As the casino celebrates its milestone anniversary, Blue Chip vice president and general manager Brenda Temple reflected on how the business has evolved – and its impact on Michigan City and La Porte County.

“Thanks to the investment we’ve made over the years, Blue Chip is the leading gaming entertainment destination in this region, with a wide variety of attractive and unique amenities, which has helped us grow and continue to be competitive in this market,” she said.

Initially, Blue Chip was just a casino built atop a small, floating vessel, with a basic hotel and restaurants. But in 2006, Boyd Gaming built a new, larger vessel; and in 2009, expanded further onto land.

In addition to adding a second hotel tower – 22 stories and 302 rooms – that year, Blue Chip built the 10,000-square-foot Spa Blu and 1,200-seat Stardust Event Center.

This fall, Blue Chip expanded the event center by 45,000 square feet, and replaced restaurant It’s Vegas, Baby! with FanDuel Sportsbook.

Temple said that in its first two months of operation, Michigan City’s FanDuel Sportsbook generated more money in online wagers than any of the Las Vegas casinos in Boyd Gaming’s portfolio.

“I’ve driven on Highway 12 toward Michigan and seen people actually pulled over to the side of the road,” Temple said. “Now that Indiana has mobile betting, people are crossing the state line just to play.”

Michigan residents aren’t the only out-of-state guests visiting the casino, of course.

Temple said a significant portion of daily guests come from Chicago – and they have to drive past three other casinos to reach the Blue Chip.

“We have a true resort here at the Blue Chip,” she said. “Our guests can get a great meal in the steakhouse, go to the spa, and play in the casino, of course. But then, there’s the surrounding community, which really creates that resort experience.”

Temple said Michigan City amenities like Lake Michigan, the Washington Park Zoo, Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets and local breweries and wineries add to the appeal when people come from out of town to visit Blue Chip.

And she said the casino’s physical and financial growth serve to benefit the Michigan City community at large.

In addition to paying $2.5 million to $3 million in taxes to the state of Indiana per month, with a portion of that redirected back to Michigan City, the Blue Chip invests more than $1 million directly into the community each year.

Temple said $750,000 in Blue Chip money is deposited to the Michigan City Community Enrichment Fund annually, with the first $100,000 automatically reserved for the zoo. The remaining $650,000 is split among nonprofit agencies that apply for grant funding.

No less than $100,000 is also given to the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City to help spur economic development locally.

“It’s stated within our mission that we enhance the communities in which we do business,” Temple said. “ … When you’re one of the larger employers in town, we make a difference in the community. It’s more than taxes.”

Further, she stated, the Blue Chip employs more than 1,000 people. Approximately half live in La Porte County, and about 40 percent of those call Michigan City home.

“A casino is for the enhancement and employment of people who live in that city,” she said. “For the people who work here who bring home a paycheck, that paycheck is being recycled and supporting the economy here within Michigan City. … We’re enhancing and regenerating the benefits of that paycheck throughout the community.”

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