Along with being one of the region’s top tourist attractions, Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa is a major force for economic success in Michigan City, La Porte County, and Northwest Indiana. The casino’s success has had a lasting impact on the prosperity of the area, in general, but also on the organizations who continue to benefit from Blue Chip’s philanthropic endeavors.
Blue Chip Casino makes an incredible contribution to our state and local economies through, specifically, gaming and admission taxes which, since 2001, totals nearly $1 billion, according to Blue Chip Vice President and General Manager, Lief Erickson.
The casino also makes numerous substantial contributions to the City of Michigan City, the Michigan City Community Enrichment Fund, and the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City (EDCMC).
Since 2001, Blue Chip Casino has contributed over $33.5 million to the City of Michigan City, over $12 million to the Michigan City Community Enrichment Fund, and $3.2 million to the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City.
As part of the initial agreement between Blue Chip Casino and Michigan City, Blue Chip contributes to the Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation who then expends those funds directly to qualified local nonprofit organizations which support and benefit the people of the Michigan City community.
“We give them (Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation), in total, $750,000 a year and then there’s a board that oversees that money,” Erickson said. “They meet throughout the year to find worthy causes to which that money will be distributed.”
For example, the Washington Park Zoo receives $100,000 from the fund every year. Some other organizations which received substantial contributions from the Community Enrichment Fund over the last year include: Salvation Army, over $100,000; Stepping Stone Women’s Shelter, $65,000; Michiana Resources, $50,000.
“It’s all managed really well,” Erickson said when speaking about how the Community Enrichment Corporation distributes funds to qualifying organizations.
“We also do a United Way campaign here and we’re the #1 company over the last year, maybe two years, in Michigan City for team member contributions,” added Erickson. “This past year our team members donated $67,000 to the United Way of La Porte County.”
Other contributions that Blue Chip Casino has made to the community have been through cash and in-kind donations to organizations like the Humane Society and the Royal Order of the Knights of Columbus.
“Those donations are intended to, once again, broaden the perspective of helping the community,” said Blue Chip Casino’s Marketing Director, Joel Giannetti. “It may not be a monetary donation, it may be a dinner for two and a night stay at the casino, but it can go towards helping that organization make money towards their cause.”
In-kind and cash donations that Blue Chip Casino presents to numerous organizations and causes throughout the year range in value from $100 up to $2500, and in 2016 those donations totaled $80,000.
Blue Chip Casino consistently attracts around an average 2.3 million visits to the casino each year. The popularity of the gaming, dining and entertainment that Blue Chip continues to provide means that the casino is able to create more than 1,000 jobs here in the region and 62% of those jobs are occupied by La Porte County residents. Also, over the last 15 years, Blue Chip Casino has paid $675 million in wages, payroll taxes and benefits.
Blue Chip remains the premier entertainment destination in the region that works diligently to support local businesses as well. This year’s Blue Chip Brewfest attracted over 80 local, regional and national brewers and this year's 8th Annual Bride Blu event was the biggest one yet.
“To go along with the craft brew craze and to enhance the Blue Chip experience, we’ve added 24 beers so we now have 34 total taps, some of which are local and regional brewers,” Giannetti said. “We’ve added them to the gaming area, to the service bar, and we’ll be adding them to our other two bars in the casino this year as well. You’ll be able to get these 34 beers anywhere on the property.”
In the vein of supporting Indiana businesses, Blue Chip works with in-state vendors within the casino at a total cost of $20 million, which is another way of contributing to the state and local economy. Along with that investment, the casino has worked to keep customers happy with popular games and improvements to the overall aesthetic of the location.
“We’ve spent more in the last several years too on slot product in keeping the latest and greatest games on the casino floor,” described Erickson. “We’ve re-carpeted the casino, we’re finishing up a project right now that improves sight lines, eliminated bottlenecks, and improved access to the banking centers and the restrooms. We’re always trying to do something to better the property.”
Integrity is incredibly important to Erickson, Blue Chip Casino and Boyd Gaming. Being a good partner to the community is something in which the Blue Chip Casino takes seriously to maintain.
“Our reputation is our most important thing and we always try to do the right thing,” Erickson said. “Boyd Gaming is built on integrity. The majority of our directors sit on different nonprofit boards throughout the community."
"It provides them (nonprofit organizations) access to us," Giannetti added. "So, if any of them are doing some type of fundraising event, Blue Chip is the first entity that they’re going to reach out to for financial assistance, in-kind donation, or even just advice.”