Riverboat Casinos

States across the US have been legalizing casino gambling, but requiring the casinos to be on riverboats. In understand that in St Louis, a small lake was dug to float a boat which held a casino. My question – Why a boat? What difference does it make? Isn’t a casino a casino? What’s the benefit of having on a boat? Am I missing something?


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President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

Not only do the casinos in Missouri have to be on boats, you can only “board” them (i.e. go into the casino) at designated time during the hour.
I think the idea is that a “floating” casino is a tourist attraction, but a casino on dry land is a den of iniquity.
The recent measure that the voters passed on riverboat casinos was called “Boats and moats”.

Indiana also has floating casinos – by law they can only operate the gaming tables and slot machines while the boat is “cruising” (i. e., away from the dock). One reason that has been given is that it prevents people from spending all their time gambling – they have to exit after the cruise is over and they can’t get on while the boat is crusing. It’s a concession to the anti-gambling crowd.

Interestingly, Kentucky does not permit casino gambling of any kind. And since it “owns” most of the Ohio River, it makes for some strange gyrations. Just downriver from Louisville there’s a boat that has to cruise (because of Indiana law) but cannot enter Kentucky’s waters (the Kentucky attorney general threatened to seize the boat if it was ever found on the Kentucky side of the border). The border is extremely close to the Indiana shore at this point, so the boat has to go down an artificially created channel, then reverse engines and come back (there’s no room to turn around).

In northern Indiana, along Lake Michigan, the law requiring “cruising” has been interpreted to mean something different. There if the boats can’t cruise (because of high water or storms), they can just lift their gangplanks and that counts as “cruising” (since no one can get on or off).

St. Louis is more confusing than Indiana. One can only board (enter the casino) at designated times, not when the boat is “cruising”, however, most of the boats do not cruise at all. Once on board, you can stay as long as you like.

When I first visited St. Louis I was unfamiliar with the gambling laws. I went to one of the riverboat casinos near the airport. Here is the conversation I had in the lobby with the casino employee:

CE - “How are you today, sir?”
ME - “Fine. Do I get my chips here, or on the boat?”
CE - “On the boat, sir.”
ME - “Thank you.” ::begin walking down hall to gambling floor::
CE - Sir! You can’t go in right now!"
ME - “Uh…why?”
CE - “The boat is cruising.”
ME - “Cruising?!? The damn thing is built on to this building! How can it be cruising?”

So, apparently, as long as they say they’re cruising it’s OK.


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Louisiana has riverboat gambling, but the laws seem to be very lax. The boats almost never leave the dock and you can gamble regardless of whether the ship is cruising or not. Only the gambling is on the ship; the restaurants, shops and so forth are in a building right next to the dock.

In Missouri, in order to legalize riverboat gambling, they actually modified the legal definition of a river to include a body of water within 1000 feet of an actual river. (paraphrasing here, obviously) They couldn’t legalize “on-land” casinos, so the gaming industry lobbied the legistlature on this issue so they could bring riverboats to the state. Legally, the gaming floor must be in the actual river, so you always cross a little bridge to get to the casino. In some of them you can see the water, but most of them you really can’t tell the difference other than the fact that you have to wait in line to go into the casino section. They also have gambling limits in Missouri as well. Last I remember the maximum amount per session was something like $500. This means you can only use $500 of your own money per session to gamble with. Obviously as you win and build your pot, you can use those winnings to keep betting, etc.

There are many crocodiles in the rivers.

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