Ameristar bets on return of poker tables in East Chicago
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 25, 2014 6:14PM
Poker play has returned to Ameristar East Chicago, which opened a new poker room on the fourth floor. | Karen Caffarini~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2014 6:13AM
EAST CHICAGO — Live poker has returned to the fourth floor of Ameristar Casino after a six-year absence.
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland cut a ceremonial red ribbon Friday to mark the opening of the casino’s 108-seat poker room, a $400,000 investment by Ameristar’s parent company, Pinnacle Entertainment.
Thirty additional jobs were created as a result of the new poker room.
“We’ve already expanded our table games in recent months. Poker is the newest and most exciting change in the last six months,” Jeff Treichel, pit manager on the table side for Ameristar East Chicago, said.
Treichel said the property is committed to expanding its offerings but noted that Pinnacle also owns the Heartland Poker Tour, which makes stops at Pinnacle casino properties up to twice a year.
The tour, which reportedly attracts between 400 and 600 players, will be coming to East Chicago in two weeks, said Kerry Fontenot, vice president of casino operations.
“We thought this was a great time to get back into the poker business,” Ameristar East Chicago spokesman Reginald Dotson said.
Treichel said he believes the new poker room will drive business to the property, which, like all casinos in Northwest Indiana and most in the metropolitan Chicago area has been suffering declining year-over-year revenues.
“Poker players tend to play all games. As a casino, we want to have every game imaginable,” Treichel said. “We look at the poker room as driving revenue.”
Copeland called the relationship between East Chicago and Ameristar “a perfect marriage,” pointing out that both are investing in the community.
Copeland said the city is getting ready to begin $3 million in infrastructure improvements, including the lakefront, bridge and roads.
Bo Krebs, technology manager for Ameristar East Chicago, said the poker room returns to its original space on the fourth floor before it was closed in 2008 to make way for a no-smoking section for slot machines. He said poker hasn’t been offered at the casino in the past six years.
Krebs said the no-smoking slot area has been moved to the first level and expanded to 130 games from the previous100.
He said the 12 poker tables each has a free charging station for cellphones.
Treichel said the poker room has free Wi-Fi and players have access to the Bravo Poker Tracking System, which lets players know if there’s a space available for them to play and rates players by time so they can get the correct amount of points to be used for various comps.
The poker room also has a self-service beverage station and food service from various restaurants.