As we continue following the evolution of the WPT Boot Camp, which we'll cover in later articles, we are lead to Gary, Indiana, a half hour's drive from downtown Chicago. Who would ever have believed that Gary, Indiana, which was once known for soot-belching smoke stacks from the steel mills and oil refineries, would become a gaming destination? Gary has gone through a complete metamorphous according to Greg, who lived in Chicago during the 60's and 70's. As we drove around town, he repeatedly commented, "I can't get over how clean and neat this town has become."
Apparently, it's now a good place to live and work, according to Chelsea Stalling, Trump Indiana Marketing Manager, who grew up in the town. After getting her undergraduate degree in communications and masters in public relations, Chelsea returned to Gary to work in government before entering the gaming industry.
While still in high school, Stalling recalls the moral battle that surrounded the emotional debate over how bringing casinos to Northwest Indiana would impact the community. "Of course it affected our community," she went on. "It brought jobs . . . a place to bring our families to eat . . . a place to take guests when they visit. People argued that casinos would bring crime and damage the moral fiber. It did exactly the opposite."
"With the mechanization of the steel industry in the 70's and 80's, many jobs were eliminated. Whenever a city has experienced economic decline and the opportunity arises to bring new jobs into the area, it's a blessing. The main employer is still US Steel, however, the casinos supplement the Indiana economy with wages, tax dollars and the stimulus that brings people to our area. In the past, when you came to visit Gary, I'd have to take you to Chicago to show you a good time. Now, people visiting Chicago, come to Gary for fun and excitement!"
The Trump Indiana 300-room hotel is modest but is currently going through remodeling. However, what the hotel lacks in luster, the staff makes up for in hometown friendliness and professional care. Everyone we came in contact with made us feel like they really appreciated us . . . from housekeeping, which graciously accommodated our special needs and unusual schedule, to the front desk staff, who patiently supplied Greg with new room key cards whenever he temporarily mislaid his. (Trump, also, offers a real bargain with their $44.40 poker hotel room rate in exchange for only two hours of play in their poker room.) The Trump Indiana Casino river boat opened in Gary's Buffington Harbor on Lake Michigan in 1996, and the hotel followed in September 1998. Initially, Indiana gaming laws required all casino boats adhere to patron boarding and disembarking schedules and actually set sail, regardless of the distance of that voyage. As ridiculous as it sounds, some of the Ohio River casino boats cruised only a few thousand feet before the vessel was required to reverse engines and return to port or risk venturing into Kentucky waters where gaming was illegal.
In 2001 Indiana came to its senses and approved dockside gaming, allowing casino boats to remain docked and open 24 hours a day. This has been a tremendous boon to the casinos and a convenience for gaming enthusiasts.
Trump Indiana employs 900 and takes a proactive approach to building relationships with the community. Through the Trump Foundation, $5,000 scholarships are awarded annually to 20 Gary high school graduates selected from its four high schools. Next year, this program will reach one million dollars in total funded scholarships since its inception.
More, next time, on the Trump Indiana Casino's 21-table non-smoking poker room managed by Greg Nichols with the assistance of his competent and enthusiastic staff.
Remember, if you can't raise, don't call.