Ameristar Casino adds 90 new slot machines in renovated pavilion space
EAST CHICAGO — Ameristar Casino officials cut the ribbon on an expansion of their pavilion gaming area Friday, adding more than 90 new slot machines outfitted with popular themes and the latest in gaming technology.
VIP Ameristar players got first crack at trying their luck on the devices, including a refreshed version of the classic "Jackpot Carnival" game available exclusively in Northwest Indiana at the East Chicago casino through mid-March.
The new gaming area opened to everyone age 21 and up at 5 p.m. Friday, and the machines' flashing LED lights, bright gaming displays, sharp graphics and realistic sound effects lured in a steady stream of slot players.
The new games include titles from the in-demand Buffalo series, Timber Wolf, Power of 88, Lightning Link, Dancing Drums, Lock It Link, and a variety of panda-themed games, among others.
"The team did such a great job putting this together. I'm pretty pumped," said Ryan Coppola, Ameristar East Chicago vice president and general manager.
The new slots area occupies what once was a serving line and dining room for Ameristar's buffet restaurant. Over the past two years, Ameristar has repurposed vast swaths of its pavilion into gaming spaces in an effort to improve the overall guest experience.
In fact, approximately 40% of the casino's gaming inventory now is based in the pavilion that previously was mostly empty and merely served to connect the Ameristar parking garage and hotel to its permanently moored riverboat on Lake Michigan.
"There's a lot of different ways we can think about using space differently and being smart about it," Coppola said. "This is really about how do we continue to think about unique offerings, access, convenience, bringing things closer to the front door."
Indeed, an Ameristar guest entering from the free, connected parking garage only is a few steps away from being able to sit down at a brand-new slot machine, playing a table game, placing a wager at the Barstool Sportsbook, or dining in a restaurant.
"(Guests) love the access, they love the convenience, and they're telling us with their foot traffic. Foot traffic is up, time on device is up, the gaming revenue is up, so they seem to like it pretty well," Coppola said.
"Every time we've launched a new offering, the return on investment has been so strong we just start working on the next idea."
Coppola hinted one of those next ideas might someday be an entirely land-based casino using the existing facilities and other available space at the 777 Aldis Ave. property. Ameristar already has updated its exterior signage and added a large video display over its porte-cochère.
"The boat has a lot of great product on it as well," he said. "But we're going to keep moving inland as much as we can. And we'll see long-term how that plays out for having the boat, or if we can get fully land-based."
In the meantime, Coppola said in addition to the new gaming space, he's most excited about the contactless, cashless technology Ameristar guests now can use to play their favorite slot machines.
Players need only download Ameristar's MyChoice app to their mobile phone. From there, they can transfer money from their bank account to the app with no fees, push a few buttons, and hold their phone up to the slot machine to "insert" money into the game.
"It plays like normal," said Daniel Kuipers, Ameristar's casino operations technical manager. "Once it's funded into there it's cash in the game. It's just like you put a dollar bill in there or a ticket in there."
Kuipers explained players can cash out their winnings back to the app or receive a traditional cash-out ticket. And players need never worry about their phones dying because many of the newest slots include wireless charging stations.
Coppola said Ameristar guests have embraced the tool faster than expected, so much so that Ameristar is among the top five casinos in the portfolio of its parent company, Penn Entertainment, for use of the contactless, cashless technology.
"Once they see it, it's kind of like a no-brainer," Coppola said. "It works fantastic. Your app is your loyalty card."