Majestic Star Casinos, Buffington Harbor, Indiana

Discussion in 'Casino Reviews' started by random_roller, Jul 24, 2016.

  1. random_roller, Jul 24, 2016

    random_roller

    random_roller Member

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    I made a quick tour yesterday (Saturday, July 23, 2016) afternoon of the three Chicagoland casinos in Northwest Indiana: Majestic Star Casino (Buffington Harbor, IN), Ameristar Casino Hotel (East Chicago, IN), and Horseshoe Casino (Hammond, IN). A while back, I had posted separate threads on the Illinois casinos in Chicagoland.

    First up, is Majestic Star Casinos, which is actually comprised of two riverboats -- the original Majestic Star and the former Trump Casino, now called the Majestic Star II. These facilities primarily cater to locals, but with a detached hotel nearby Majestic Star Casinos can accommodate customers from outside the area. IMO, a big plus for this casino is there is actually decent room on the casino floor between (well-spaced) electronic gaming machines. Also, bathrooms are easy to locate and well-positioned.

    I have previously played craps at this casino at a $5 table minimum, but I arrived too late in the day on this occasion. Two of the tables (1 crapless) were in use and both were at a $10 table minimum.

    I am using a new -- hopefully easier to read -- spreadsheet- based format for my casino reviews. Your comments on what can be added/changed are welcome.

    Select gaming information for Majestic Star & Majestic Star II (as of my time/date of my visit) appears below. Please note this information is subject to change at the discretion of the casino and/or regulatory agencies at any time. Contact the casino directly for up-to-date information.

    Majestic Star Report.png
     
    #1
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  2. Onautopilot, Jul 24, 2016

    Onautopilot

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    Great report! I sometimes visit northern Indiana, have relatives there, lived there years ago.

    But East Chicago, Hammond, and Gary are not places to roam around too much if you are not in the casino, not a great area!
     
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  3. random_roller, Jul 24, 2016

    random_roller

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    Thanks, OP. You're right -- the NW Indiana casinos aren't located in great areas, but I've never felt unsafe in the casinos. While I certainly don't recommend it for everyone, I have explored Hammond & Gary (and south side of Chicago) quite a bit checking out the area's railroads and industries. A lot of history in those towns. Unfortunately, much of the steel industry that helped make the US great at the beginning of the 20th century was shuttered long ago, perhaps never to return (at least not to its former glory).
     
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  4. Onautopilot, Jul 24, 2016

    Onautopilot

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    I lived in the area, but east of there, Hobart Indiana. When I was young and adventuresome, we would go into Calumet City, by Hammond and East Chicago. Wild city, anything went. :)

    All my relatives worked in the steel mills back then.

    I don't miss the area, but do have some fond memories of those past days.

    I was up that way about 10 years ago, and hit a couple of the casinos, had a good time, and you are right, it's relatively safe in the casinos. And if you know where you are going, some areas are fine.

    Nice reports!
     
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  5. random_roller, Jul 24, 2016

    random_roller

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    Note: Replaced original 4000x3000 pixel image of riverboats with a more manageable 800x600 pixel version. Also added a second picture.


    The Majestic Star riverboat casino is in the foreground, while the Majestic Star II is docked on the other side, largely obscured by the gangway leading from the pavilion

    Majestic Star Casinos 800x600 IMG_0034.jpg

    The roof line of the detached hotel is visible behind the elevated portion of the walkway leading from the Majestic Star Casinos Events Center.

    Majestic Star Hotel 800x600 IMG_0012.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  6. James Hall, Jul 24, 2016

    James Hall

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    random roller
    do they sail ??
    the boats at lake Charles at one time were required to
     
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  7. Druck

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    IIRC they used to have to be "sea worthy". When the Boat open in Michigan City, they dug a pond and had rails under the water. The boat "set sail" and moved out and then back and forth. Departed every other hour.
     
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  8. random_roller, Jul 24, 2016

    random_roller

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    Years ago when they first came into existence (mid 90s), the NW Indiana riverboat casinos had a sailing requirement, complete with regularly scheduled boarding and cruise times. Over the years, such requirements were gradually eliminated. Today there is no requirement for sailing. Even so, I don't know if either boat could sail under its own power at this point; the engines might have been disabled, mothballed or even removed and in all likelihood, there is no captain on staff to pilot the boat even if it was still operational.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  9. James Hall, Jul 24, 2016

    James Hall

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    random
    thanks
    it's much the same with the river boats in Lake Charles Louisiana years ago to have gambling yhey had to be on the move
    All that's changed
     
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  10. random_roller, Jul 24, 2016

    random_roller

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    Such a move was an Inevitable evolution of the marketplace as competition from riverboat gambling in nearby states intensified. The need to increase revenues (e.g., providing customers with continuous access, rather limited access via boarding & cruise times) and drive costs down (e.g., eliminating costs associated with cruising) spurred state legislators to act to protect tax revenues by helping out the gaming industry.

    How are the casinos in Lake Charles? That area is on my list to visit. From what I've read, L'Auberge is very nice. I've been to a sister property (River City in St. Louis) and it was very nice. Have you been to Coushatta Casino Resort?
     
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  11. random_roller, Jul 25, 2016

    random_roller

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    Had to comply with the law as written, but not necessarily the spirit of the law -- as long as the riverboat casino operators had good lawyers. Gotta love those "boats in a moat". Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois, is one. It is built atop a shallow man-made basin with a few inches of water to comply with the law as written. By the time construction started, riverboat gambling (without boarding times or cruising) had long been accepted by (most of) the public; thus, there was no pretense of building the casino on a navigable waterway.

    The Wall Street Journal story linked below might be of interest.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/casino-riverboat-captain-only-has-to-cruise-once-a-year-1407724202
     
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  12. James Hall, Jul 25, 2016

    James Hall

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    I haven't been to Lake Charles for several years but last there the tables were OK
    I will be going back there sometime in the next few months to visit my son
    he runs a Goodyear plant out in that part of the world
    We don't go back to Texas as often as we should
     
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  13. random_roller, Jul 27, 2016

    random_roller

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    I've been to several casinos in and around New Orleans, as well as Baton Rouge, but haven't yet made it to Lake Charles or Shreveport / Bossier City. I'll get to those casinos someday.

    Where in Louisiana is the Goodyear plant?
     
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  14. James Hall, Jul 27, 2016

    James Hall

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    it's not he works at one in the Beumont and spends part of his time at one around Houston
     
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  15. random_roller, May 20, 2021

    random_roller

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    April 18, 2021 marked the end of almost 25 years of gaming for Majestic Star Casino, which eventually operated 2 riverboats in Buffington Harbor, Indiana. Initial gaming operations began on June 7, 1996. Back then, Majestic Star was berthed opposite the Trump Casino riverboat. Both operations shared non-gaming facilities used for boarding/offloading passengers. For historical perspective about Trump Casino, see the following link below (from 2016):

    Trump's Spotty Casino History in Gary, Indiana (businessinsider.com)

    Majestic Star owner Don Barden bought out Trump's riverboat and gaming license in 2005. The acquired riverboat was subsequently renamed Majestic Star II. The reality is neither Majestic Star nor Trump Casino was well-positioned to have long-term success in the area. Poor location, not having a national player reward program, and going up against much bigger & better financed competitors were a few of the problems that plagued both riverboat casinos throughout their existence. Having Cline Avenue closed from late 2009 until late 2020 only compounded the problems, especially for Chicagoans who wanted to visit even though Majestic Star was a locals (Gary/Hammond area) casino. When repairs were finally completed and the route re-opened in December 2020, it was way past too little, too late. However, perhaps the re-opening will help out Ameristar, which is located just a short drive from the Majestic Star riverboats.

    As part of an agreement with the state, the 2 riverboat casino gaming licenses held by Majestic Casino have been consolidated into a land-based casino gaming license and transferred to the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. I'm not sure if the deal allows the Hard Rock license owners to open another casino elsewhere in the state. As previously noted, gaming operations on both riverboats ended last month.

    So long, Majestic Star Casino I & II. It's actually Majestic Star and Majestic Star II, but that's academic at this point, right? All photos below taken 5/18/21.

    The Majestic Star signage has been turned off and no longer warns drivers if there is a train on the tracks blocking the road leading to the casino's main entrance. Not surprisingly the road leading to the parking garage has been blocked off and closed to traffic. The road on the far right is for access to nearby industrial sites. Further down the road to the left connects with the road that was original entrance to the riverboats, passes by the casino's detached hotel, and crosses over railroad tracks (hence the lighted train warning on the sign when applicable) before arriving at the main entrance.

    Majestic Star Closed Access Road 800x600 - Copy.png


    No buses parked in the surface parking lot and only a handful of cars, probably from the skeleton security & maintenance crew.

    Majestic Star Front Entrance & Parking Lot 800x600 - Copy.png


    Note the orange pylons blocking the drive through drop off formerly used by valet and others.

    Majestic Star Main Entrance 800x600 - Copy.png
     
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    Last edited: May 21, 2021
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  16. random_roller, May 20, 2021

    random_roller

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    I never stopped by these 2 riverboats much (to gamble) even though I lived in Chicagoland the entire time they were open. So I can't really say I'll miss playing at Majestic Star. If a Chicagoland player was looking for cheap tables or slots, this would have been the place.

    A few more photos from taken on 5/18/21.

    Another view of the sheltered drive through drop off. The parking garage is in the background.

    Majestic Star Sideview of Main Entrance 800x600 - Copy.png


    Low occupancy rates and the need for significant capital investment resulted in the detached hotel finally being closed in July 2019. A person staying in a room at this end of the hotel had a pretty good walk to the casino. Between this picture and one I had uploaded a while back in post #5 above, you can get an idea it's a long walk. Note the elevated covered walkway (blue glass), which spans multiple railroad tracks.

    Majestic Star Hotel 800x600 - Copy.png


    Deferred maintenance will eventually take its toll on the facility. For now, things are not too bad. Fortunately, the state has already approved transforming this area into a cargo port, so the remaining structures probably won't be the subject of YouTube UrbEx videos for years to come. How quickly that gets accomplished remains to be seen. The picture below is part of the lengthy covered walkway that connected the casino & events center with the detached hotel. This section is ground level, closer to the events center. Heading towards the hotel, the walkway is elevated for a good distance so it can span multiple railroad tracks before again returning to ground level near the hotel.

    Majestic Star Covered Walkway to Hotel 600x800 - Copy.png


    The area around this casino offered one of the best railfanning sites in Chicagoland, especially with the chain link fence no longer obstructing views. CSX 312 is an AC44CW built for the railroad in 1998 by GE Transportation. Two repainted AC44CW locomotives were featured in the movie Unstoppable. Of course, it took a real engine (an older Alco RS-3) to help save the day.

    BTW, if you're interested, the riverboats are apparently available for @$6M each. The smaller boat on the left is the former Trump Casino (Trump Princess).

    Majestic Star Riverboats 800x600 - Copy.png


    So long, Majestic Star & Majestic Star II. Perhaps I'll stop by once the new cargo port is fully developed...if I can get anywhere near the place.
     
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    Last edited: May 20, 2021
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  17. von duck, May 20, 2021

    von duck

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    Their location could have been worse. They could have been in the middle of the desert, facing competition from 50 other casinos. :cool:
     
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  18. DeMango, May 20, 2021

    DeMango

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    Thanks for the pics, surely these boats could be moved somewhere else.
     
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  19. random_roller, May 20, 2021

    random_roller

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    Being an off-Strip, non-downtown Las Vegas casino has its pros and cons. At least there is walk-up traffic at casinos such as Ellis Island, the former Hard Rock (now Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels, or something like that), and other similarly situated casinos. Majestic Star had virtually none, if any at all. Given the area, I'd say none, but there was probably a handful of gamblers who made the long walk from somewhere to that casino over the past 25 years. Also, there is nothing else in that part of Gary to attract players, unless you count people stopping by the casino before/after a shift at nearby Arcelor-Mittal, US Steel, BP, or Praxair. I highly doubt many people were chartering flights to Gary Chicago International Airport just to play at Majestic Star...
     
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    Last edited: May 20, 2021
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  20. random_roller, May 20, 2021

    random_roller

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    Perhaps the 2 boats can be properly cleaned up, then towed out to the lake somewhere, and then sunk to begin a new life as an artificial reef. Given what happened in Biloxi years ago during a hurricane and the proliferation of casino gambling since the early 1990s, a number of states that had led the riverboat gambling legal fiction now allow land-based casinos, including Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois. I have no idea what the market demand is for used riverboats, especially when the cost to get them out of the Great Lakes might make such a transaction unattractive. That being said, I think most investors considering building a new casino or upgrading an existing riverboat would rather construct a land-based facility.
     
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