Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan Casinos Must Prepare for Illinois Melee

If you are one of these casinos — Potawatomi, Four Winds, Blue Chip, Majestic Star,  Ameristar or Horseshoe – you better start preparing now for the battle for guests that is coming.  The state of Illinois is pushing to expand gaming and it is targeting the casinos that are generating revenue from Illinois customers.

A simple Google Maps search of the proposed new Illinois casino locations shows that the state wants to keep people from leaving Illinois and taking their gaming money with them.  The locations are Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Park City, Waukegan or North Chicago and the south suburbs.

It’s common for states to want the tax revenue to stay instate.  Ross Perot said there would be a “giant sucking sound” if NAFTA passed.  Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin casinos will experience a giant sucking sound of their own as guests stay in Illinois and don’t drive to neighboring states to play at casinos.

When new casinos open, people want to give them a try.  Once they play at new casinos that are a shorter drive from home and that have all the latest amenities, it will be difficult for the current casinos to compete.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that the new casinos will wipe out all of the existing ones.  Existing casinos can survive, but they need to take action today to prepare for it.

Here are three courses of action for existing casinos near Illinois.

Get Back to the Basics.  Casinos must get back to the basics by examining their current customer service delivery.

Not how good they think their service is, but the real level of service they are providing.  I looked at some of the online reviews for the casinos that are going to be affected and they are rough.  Research from American Express found that 70 percent of people believe online reviews.  Unless reviews for older casinos are amazingly good, customers will skip the out-of-state drive and try the new casinos.

Build Good Will.  I like this saying about reputation:  “Inoculate your reputation by building a reservoir of good will.”  Now is the time for all casinos near Illinois to build a reserve of good will.  This means creating guest advocates who will risk their personal reputation and recommend the casino to friends and family.

Make Changes to Service Now, Not Later.  Casinos that think it could take years for these proposed Illinois gaming properties to open could be right, but it can take years for existing casinos to create a stellar service culture.  It’s not as simple as doing training or holding a pep rally and then service magically improves.  Achieving great guest service is a long-term process and to compete, casinos will need to start now if they hope to survive what is coming.

The state of Illinois is doing what it thinks is in its best financial interest.  It is being promised that these new casinos will be a cash cow that will pay for schools and reduce unfunded liabilities.  With those kinds of promises, it’s easy to see why Illinois wants more casinos.  States see casinos as an ATM and when they run short on cash, they go get some more.  If Illinois adds these casinos, there will be a huge cash drain on neighboring states.  The companies that buy the gaming licenses will come in and make a big splash with amazing facilities and the best guest service they can provide.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

Lydia Baird

Tom Ellis

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