Riverboat Casinos in the U.S.
Back before the automobile, and even before trains could move people across the United States, there was transportation by steamboat. Steamboats transported people, equipment, and supplies via the river systems of the United States. While lots of things still travel by boat, today’s riverboats are now used for entertainment purposes. If you have never been on a riverboat casino, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a look at the history of riverboat casinos and which ones get high marks for their features.
The History of Riverboat Gaming
The largest river in terms of people and merchandise traffic was the Mississippi River. The river is long. It spans from Minnesota to Louisiana. This gave people the ability to traverse up and down the river from north to south. It also gave them access to other major rivers that fed into the Mississippi and provided east-west access as well. In fact, people could cross much of the country through its river system. The Union generals knew this. So, during the Civil War, they blockaded the Mississippi River in the South to cut off the food supply.
Riverboats for entertainment purposes began appearing on the Mississippi River for a simple reason. Many states had (and some states still have) laws that prohibit gambling on land. Because the Mississippi River was part of a transportation hub, trade centers sprang up along the river. This attracted people who had money to spend, and this included professional gamblers. In the 19th century, riverboat casinos sprung up to satisfy those people who wanted to entertain the masses of gamblers. They also provided a place for professional gamblers to make a few bucks.
Some riverboats traveled up and down the river to allow people time to gamble. There were some riverboats that didn’t travel at all. They stayed docked in the middle of the river. This kept them away from law enforcement in those states that didn’t allow gaming on land.
Emergence in the 19th Century
It was in the 19th century that the image of the professional gambler emerged. Today’s professional gamblers are not usually considered cheaters. Instead, they are thought of as professional card players who are good at their game. The 19th-century card professional was a card sharp, which meant that he (or she) was a cheat at cards. In some localities, the authorities hanged card sharps who they caught cheating on land. This explains why they were happy to remain offshore. These days, gamblers who cheat are usually banned from the casino.
The Modern Riverboat Casino
The 19th- and early-to-mid-20th-century riverboat casinos operated mostly on the fringes of the law. However, they did have some positive benefits. First, they brought jazz and the blues from New Orleans and Memphis to Chicago and other points in the North. As a result, two amazing musical traditions spread across the country. Second, they created the idea that casinos were areas of entertainment with food and music in addition to gaming.
Riverboat casino gaming was eventually phased out with the decrease in the overall river traffic in the late 20th century. However, they found new life as the century came to an end. Each state where riverboats are has different laws regarding riverboat casinos.
Modern Legislation on Riverboat Gambling
In 1989, Iowa became the first state to legalize riverboat casinos. The state allowed the boats to move up and down the Mississippi River and offered gambling on them. Two other states, Illinois and Louisiana, passed laws legalizing riverboat gambling in 1991. In Louisiana, the original law stated there could be up to 15 riverboat casinos in the state. But, they had to have a historical appearance and could carry up to 600 passengers. They also had to travel the river for a specific amount of time. However, the legislature quickly amended the law to allow casinos to remain docked for gambling. That is, as long as no one was gambling on land. In Illinois, the boat had to get away from the dock before gambling could begin.
Other states that have legalized riverboat casino gaming are Mississippi and Missouri. The state of Mississippi has gambling on both the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. However, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the riverboat casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport, the state allowed casinos to be on the land rather than on the water.
How Riverboat Casinos Work
In most states that allow riverboat gaming, casinos can stay at the dock. People, then, can come and go as they please. All the riverboat casinos have different floors to gamble on. They have slot machines and table games as well. In addition, many riverboat casinos have hotels attached, as well as entertainment and restaurants in the complex.
The Best Riverboat Casinos
Hollywood Casino and Hotel Lawrenceburg, Ind.
The casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., offers multiple opportunities to gamble on the boat. It also offers an attached hotel with hundreds of rooms and suites. There are six restaurants on the property with offerings from fine dining to casual dining. The boat offers slot machines, both on-site and online. Some of the slot machines are progressive, while other slots offer plenty of fun for not a lot of dough. Card games include poker and blackjack. The casino also has a room specifically for poker players, high-end tables for VIP card playing, and celebrity dealers on specific days and times. It also offers tournament play for beginners through experts. The casino is 20 minutes west of Cincinnati, so it’s easy to get to and offers an escape from the everyday.
Horseshoe Riverboat Casino and Hotel, Bossier City, La.
This is one of the best-known riverboat casinos in the area, and there are many reasons why. The adjoining hotel has rooms and suites. Each room or suite has a commanding view of the Red River and the city of Shreveport. In addition, Horseshoe offers floors full of slot machines, including all levels of slot games, from penny and quarter slots to $100 slots and progressive slots. The décor and interior of the boat and hotel are top of the line. Horseshoe also has one of the best steakhouses (Jack Binion’s, named after the original owner of the casino). It also boasts world-class concerts and entertainment at its adjoining venue. The casino has hosted television shows and has been a stop on various poker tours. High rollers are welcome and catered to.
Ameristar Hotel and Casino, Kansas City, Mo.
If you are in Kansas City, Mo., you must eat some great barbecue and visit one of the riverboat casinos. One of the best in the area is the Ameristar Hotel and Casino. The boat has 2,800 slot machines and 57 table games. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the casino is the live stream of poker from the exclusive poker room. There is always a game going on online. In addition, the boat offers VIP exclusive gaming tables and slots. The adjoining hotel offers both rooms and suites, with lovely views of the city skyline. Another great feature is there are some of the best steak and barbecue restaurants in the nation nearby. So, you can get away from the gaming for a while, and eat yourself silly.
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As an avid video poker player and lover of real money online blackjack, Thomas is the founder and guiding voice behind the Top Casino Picks community. A project manager at a London based Fortune 500 tech company, Thomas is an online casino enthusiast who founded TCP as a hobby to help other players avoid the headaches and hassles he has encountered when trying to find the best real money online casinos.
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