New casinos take different approaches
Comparing the temporary Indiana Live! Casino to the recently completed permanent casino at Hoosier Park in Anderson really isn't a fair comparison.
Naturally, a temporary casino is smaller and has less to offer than a permanent one, but if atmosphere is considered, one could argue that Indiana Live! comes out on top, even in its temporary version.
The marketing for Indiana Live! pushes the concept that "Las Vegas has come to Shelbyville," and the decor is bold and bright, complementing the flashing slot machines. The overtly attractive "Angel" cocktail servers teamed with the highly professional appearance and manner of the casino's management by The Cordish Company Gaming Operations from New Jersey add to its high-end appeal. The presence of an on-site internationally known Wolfgang Puck restaurant also lifts the casino beyond the ordinary.
Construction at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino had a head start of several months on Indiana Live!, but its plans were never as grandiose as the ones envisioned by Indiana Downs, owner of the casino and the horse track in Shelbyville. The Hoosier Park casino is 92,000 square feet and includes the 2,000 slot machines allowed by Indiana law, while the Indiana Live! temporary casino is almost as large, with 70,000 square feet and 1,900 slot machines, which will grow to 2,000 when the casino moves to the permanent building.
The permanent casino in Shelbyville, which is expected to open in January, will provide 233,000 square feet of gaming and restaurants, compared to Hoosier Park's 172,000 square feet that includes restaurants and the horse-racing track.
While Indiana Downs plans to spend $500 million on a project that will rival the investment Honda is making in Decatur County, Hoosier Park's investment is listed in its promotional material as a more modest $100 million expansion.
The Hoosier Park casino already is connected to the Anderson horse-racing track via a long staircase and an escalator, and the racetrack at Indiana Downs also will be accessible from the permanent casino.
Rob Moore, general manager of racing at Hoosier Park, said that the facility's owner, Centaur, believes that integrating the casino with the horse racing is vital and was an important consideration when the casino and remodeling of the track facilities were planned.
Since the Indiana Live! temporary casino is currently located a distance away from the horse track, the two seem unconnected, but this will undoubtedly change when the two are combined in 2009. However, the casino and track in Shelbyville are managed by different groups, while at Hoosier Park, both are managed by the same management group.
Hoosier Park's permanent facility has nine new bars and restaurants, including a full-service buffet, a steakhouse, a food court, a 24-hour New York-style delicatessen and two specialty bars. However, the steakhouse is connected to the Top of the Park restaurant and is distinguished from it by a closer proximity to the horse track and different-colored tablecloths.
Indiana Live!, when the permanent casino is completed, will have a NASCAR Sports Grille, a Makers Mark Steakhouse, a fresh-food market, the Angels Rock Bar and the Mosaic Center Bar. The Shelbyville casino seems determined to provide entertainment options more frequently and with more variety than Hoosier Park.
The center bar in the Indiana Live! temporary casino is actually more impressive than the permanent bar at Hoosier park since it features a large cloth matrix over the bar that appears to change colors. The central location is popular with customers because both bars are convenient from anywhere in the casinos.
The color scheme at Hoosier Park is more muted than Indiana Live!, employing browns, beiges and oranges instead of the reds, fuchsia and purples against black and silver that define the temporary casino in Shelbyville. The soaring ceiling of Indiana Live! also gives a sense of expansive space, which makes the ceiling at Hoosier Park seem low.
One of the biggest differences between the two casinos is apparent as soon as the outside of the facilities come into view. Even though Indiana Live! is in a giant Sprung structure, a large logo on the roof and the lofty porte cochere entry immediately impress visitors. Then a 10,000-square-foot lobby area allows visitors to immediately access the Live! Rewards Club.
The permanent Hoosier Park Casino exterior has considerably less glitz and glamour, with just the word "casino" on the exterior and a muted paint on the building; the porte cochere also appears shorter and smaller. The Anderson casino was constructed without a welcoming lobby area, so that the minute guests enter, they are met by casino personnel who must see identification cards.
Indiana Live! Casino in Shelbyville and Hoosier Park Racing and Casino are only an hour and less than 40 miles apart, so they will naturally pull some of the same crowd to their facilities. Once a gambler is seated at a slot machine, he or she probably doesn't spend much time worrying about the color of the carpet or the height of the ceiling. The variety of machines and their clustered groupings seemed similar in both casinos, and both have a section for high-stakes betting.
Hoosier Park does have electronic blackjack games - some of them feature virtual dealers, while others have real men and women to interact with the customers. Indiana Live! will have the same kind of electronic board games when the permanent facility opens, but there wasn't enough room for them in the temporary structure