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Summertime is Casino Time

There were 10 casinos in Indiana - five on the Ohio River, five on Lake Michigan - but only Argosy, Grand Victoria and Belterra are an easy drive for a night out. Local residents just have to get in the car, drive to the Hoosier state and drop a few quarters in a slot machine.

Gamblers want to spend a few bucks trying their luck, wandering the boats decks and at the casinos. In 2005, Argosy's attendance in February was 321,743. In July, it jumped to 367,549, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission. During a summer night out, seems the warmer weather makes adventures want to experience betting in a casino.

Belterra went from 164,644 in February to 202,126 in July; Grand Victoria went from 153, 100 to 182,421. It's the same at Southeast Indiana's other two casinos. There's no record keeping on where the patrons came from, but all three casinos consider the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area their major market.

With Argosy and Grand Vic celebrating 10th anniversaries this year, it seemed like a good time to offer a primer on what to expect if you visit those two or Belterra. Today, with Cincinnati mulling a proposed slot machine parlor on the site of Broadway Commons, gaming is on a lot of minds.

Things are busy on the boat but not to the point where you can't get a seat at the slots or tables. There's a 30-minute line to get into the buffet at 8p.m. Friday. Quarter and $1 slots are the busiest, but not clogged. That starts happening about 11p.m. That's when you may have to stake out a spot and wait a spell if you have a specific slot in mind.

It's not unusual to see people hovering behind a chair, waiting for a spot with their "lucky dealer" - who, like all the dealers, will be due up in a starched burgundy shirt. Blackjack and poker tables are a different story.

Meanwhile, at the bar, it's sometimes difficult to get a seat, not because people are waiting to drink, but because they want to play the video poker games built into the bar. The drinks are sparse on booze, heavy on mixer.

October 1996, Grand Vic opened, is the least busy of the three, with 1,788,402 admissions in 2005, according to Indiana Gaming Commission records. It's also the most laid back and it seems the best choice for a beginner. Rising Sun and Ohio County, the county near Cincinnati where it is located, are starting a 21-acre business park to diversify away from revenue generated by Grand Victoria Casino. The city and county spent $670,000 on the land with taxes gained partly from the casino.