Riverboat Gambling — A Trip to Remember

Riverboat Gambling — A Trip to Remember

18.02.2019 0 By traveler

In one way or another, gambling in the USA always stood in the gray zone — In most of the states, operating a casino is illegal, and only for the chosen few it’s not. Riverboat Casinos came as a godsend for all the gamblers who weren’t lucky enough to live in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

The History of Riverboat Casinos

Gambling in the USA went through thick and thin over the years, but it remained as one of the crucial components of American society. The Europeans brought all of their gambling games once they discovered the New World — So gambling accompanied US history throughout almost all the wars and national crises.

And considering how casinos were illegal in most of the states even back then, the operators came up with a perfect idea — To set their casinos in international waters. These casinos were set on paddlewheel boats, and they operated almost every night, three miles away from the shore. These riverboat casinos were similar to their land-based counterparts in many ways. They still offered a variety of games — there was everything from slots to table games. What’s more important, though, is that these ‘water casinos’ had their advantages too.

The History of Riverboat Casinos

Even in the states that allowed gambling, players couldn’t bet all they wanted. There were limitations as to how much time they could spend in a casino. However, this rule couldn’t be enforced upon the water-based casinos because they operated in international waters, miles away from the shore. Therefore, gambling on the riverboats was limitless.

Some casinos didn’t even have to be three miles away from the shore; the rules dating back to the last century in some states say that a riverboat casino only needs to be on the water surface. That is why you can see many casinos on barges nowadays.

The Friendly States

Some states quickly saw the financial benefits of offshore casinos. That’s why the riverboat gambling more or less existed since the 19th century. The first state to legalize it was Iowa, in 1989. Soon, a couple of other states followed suit

  • Illinois
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Indiana
  • Missouri

All of the riverboat casinos operating from these countries were allowed to do so on the Mississippi river, as well as Ohio and Missouri rivers.

Iowa might have been the first state to officially legalize riverboat gambling, but Illinois and Louisiana were quick to follow. These states authorized the so-called ‘river gambling’ in 1991. Although these states passed their laws in the same year, they were still quite different.

In Louisiana, boats with casinos had to take at least 600 passengers, and they had to be 120 feet long. Additionally, the boat needed to look historical in appearance — It may sound silly to you, but the casinos had to respect this. Furthermore, the government stated that only 15 of these boats could operate in the entire country.

On the other hand, in the state of Illinois, rules were more strict. A boat could not embark unless it was completely full. This made casino gambling more difficult because there was no guarantee a boat would be crowded every single night.

Some States Were More Strict

A year after that, Indiana was the next state to legalize these new casinos. In 1992, the first boat casinos opened, and the regulations weren’t that rigorous at all. The boat needed to have at least 500 passengers, and unlike its counterparts in Louisiana, it could look however it pleased. Some opted for a historical look, while others decided to be as modern as it gets. Additionally, the ships had to be at least 150 feet long.

Mississippi joined the group in 1994. As opposed to other states, Mississippi allowed barge casinos. Per the rules, these casinos only needed to be on the water to operate — the state didn’t emphasize how far away from the shore. And as a follow-up to flexible regulations, there wasn’t a limit to how many barge casinos were allowed to exist in the entire state.

Missouri also legalized the riverboat casinos in 1992, but the regulations were much more strict. However, the state amended them in 2000. And ever since that year, Missouri river casinos were allowed to have games such as BlackJack and Baccarat, but not slots and roulettes. The reason for this is because the law considers these games as a form of skill. As for the other casino games, they deem them to still be games of chance. And as such, Missouri forbids these two games on the local riverboat casinos.

Riverboat Gambling Still Exists

Riverboat Gambling

Fast forward to today, and all of these states still allow boat casinos. The rules haven’t changed at all — the last one to adjust them was Missouri, in 2000. The law has remained the same for 19 years now. So if you are tired of typical hotel casinos and you want to experience something new — My warmest advice to you is to visit these boats. Nowhere else in the world will you feel the authentic atmosphere of the 19th century. Most of these riverboats and barges decided to keep their traditional exterior. So even if you search for online casinos, you will quickly realize how many of them are inspired by these boat casinos.

These boat casinos did disappear for a brief period during the Civil War, as it effectively disrupted the river traffic. And although riverboats lost their purpose with the invention of railways, the casinos and enthusiastic gamblers partially kept them alive until this day. So for all lovers of history and the good old times, these casinos are the perfect place to be.

They Exist out of the USA Too

Next to the states that legalized river casinos, Native Americans operate a couple as well. This is due to their sovereign status ever since the first Europeans set their feet in North America.

But the USA isn’t the only country that can provide you with the aforementioned experience. There are hundreds of international cruise ships that have casinos aboard them. Besides, some amateur gamblers say that gambling on cruisers is easier if you’re a beginner because the croupiers will help you learn. They have more patience, as gambling is only one of the many activities on offer.

Finally, gambling on the water can be a lot of fun. If it wasn’t, then all these states wouldn’t have legalized it. With some simple Internet research, you can easily find many riverboat casinos and experience that atmosphere firsthand.