Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weekend Casino Adventues!

Kate and I have made it down to Indiana to go to a casino a couple different times now. We had lots of fun both times. Going to a casino on a Saturday is a good way to waste a day.

The Horseshoe Casino in Hammond was our first destination. Getting there was easy. There's a free bus that picks you up in front of the Hyatt on Wacker. Leaves every two hours or so. Talk to the concierge at the Hyatt to find exact details. I think we caught the bus at 12:10.

After a quick bus ride, you get dropped off at the Horseshoe. If you're not a member of their rewards club, you pretty much have to join as a condition of the free bus ride. It's not much of a big deal. It costs nothing, and you get a coupon for money off the buffet.

The bus driver gives you a slip that works as your return bus ticket. It has a pre-printed time on it. Ours was 5:10. I imagine you could leave at 3:10 or 7:10 instead, if you so desired. I doubt they look that closely. I'm sure they give you a preset time in order to get you to stay long enough at the casino to spend some money.

We had a late lunch at the buffet. We're big fans of casino buffets, as they usually have pretty good food, and you can get whatever you want. I really liked their buffet. It was big and there was a lot to choose from. I rated it higher than Kate did, but she would still probably say it was fine.

The actually casino area itself is amazingly nice and new. I understand that the Horseshoe was recently refurbished and remodeled. It definitely looks really nice, and it feels pretty much like you're in Las Vegas. As with all the casinos around that area, you're actually on a boat. We walked around outside a bit to try to see the boat, but it's not much to look at. It's a giant building built on a barge. Not very boat like at all.

The casino layout was fine. Lots of slots. Not a lot of penny or nickel slots -- this place really seems to have more expensive games than other casinos. We played a lot of slots, a bit of video poker, and some roulette. We know very little about roulette, but our dealer was very kind and patient with our dumb questions. Be sure to tip your dealer.

Strangely, this casino has no hotel attached to it. That makes it less than suitable for a weekend excursion. I don't know that I'd want to stay here late in to the evening gambling, then have a nice dinner at the steak house, then have to take a bus or drive home. It's a lot more fun, too, when you have a room you can go chill out in, periodically.

Also, there is absolutely zero to look at outside the casino here. It's really in the middle of nowhereville, and there's nothing but a long driveway to walk back down to get back to civilization.

We hit up the Horseshoe probably about a month ago. This past weekend, my parents were in town, so we took them to the Ameristar Casino in East Chicago. Seems like this casino has changed names a couple of different times. It was a Harrah's, then a Resorts, and now it's an Ameristar. Ameristar isn't a big name. I've never been to an Ameristar casino before, and their website suggests they're located in random cities, far from Las Vegas.

There's a free shuttle to the Ameristar, but we didn't use it. My parents rented a car to drive down here, so we just used that to drive to the casino. It was easy to get to. I-90 to Cline Avenue, and follow the signs. Piece of cake.

Turns out, the Ameristar is very nice. Like the Horseshoe, it's also on a boat. Unlike the Horseshoe, it actually looks like a boat from the outside. If you're bored, walk outside by the bus drop off, and turn to your right, and walk to the water's edge. You can see the boat -- a large four or five deck vessel, instantly recognizable as having actually been originally designed as a water conveyance.

The Ameristar is perhaps not as newly remodeled as the Horsehoe, but it's still very nice, clean and modern. They have a good three or four levels of casino floor on board the boat, and they have a ton of penny slots to choose from. Sometimes it was almost hard to find nickle or quarter slots to try instead. (And it did take a bit of poking around to find where they kept the video poker games hidden.) It's hard to tell for sure, but this casino might be a bit more affordable than the Horseshoe.

I tried roulette at Ameristar. My mom, who likes roulette, sat at the table and played as well. Our dealer seemed less on top of things than the dealer at the Horseshoe was. At one point she gave both my mom and another player the same color chips, and then there was a huge incident trying to determine who actually won a game, when that color won. That was confusing and irritating, and I damn near don't excuse the dealer for that. That was the one blemish on an otherwise enjoyable experience at the Ameristar.

The buffet at the Ameristar is a bit small. The selection was fine and nobody went away hungry, but it wasn't anything like what you'd see at any sort of Las Vegas casino, old or new. There's also a diner, a sports bar, and a steak house. The diner doesn't open until 6:00 pm. Next time we go, we'd likely try eating somewhere else, assuming the sports bar has food during the day.

The Ameristar has a hotel, and from what I read online, it seems to get pretty good reviews. In spite of the lackluster buffet, I do think this would be a fun place to stay a night. It's a shame that they don't seem to have musical acts or entertainment. This would be a fun place to come see some worn out old crooner, working the B-grade casino circuit.

We found both casinos to be a lot of fun, and they're both worth visiting. It's a very close call, but if I had to choose between them, I think I'd choose the Ameristar over the Horseshoe. The Horseshoe might have been a hair fancier, but the Ameristar is still very nice, and seemed a bit more affordable. I can see us going here some night to gamble, have a nice dinner at the steakhouse, then staying at the hotel for the night.

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