Riverboat Gambling in the United States has a captured the imagination of travelers since the days when Samuel Clemens changed his name to Mark Twain.
In the early 19th century, the Mississippi River was a major center of commerce and trade, as both farmers and merchants used the Mississippi River to transport their goods. Naturally, as these people were carrying a sizable amount of cash and had to remain in the area for long stretches of time, they took to casual gambling. That is when the history of riverboat casinos began. The style and form of riverboat gambling has changed over the years, but the rivers have really just adjusted with the times to continue this great tradition.
The 20th century has seen a resurgence in riverboat gambling. Before then, the casual gambler had very few outlets for his search for a little bit of fun and entertainment in the form of gambling. To have a great experience, one had to undergo a major commitment. It entailed travelling to a casino, renting a hotel room for a couple of days, and really engrossing oneself in the experience. Finally, in 1989, everything changed. Iowa was the first state to legalize riverboat gambling, and in the early ‘90s, a number of other states followed suit. With more and more states joining the riverboat gambling industry, it matured and became an industry of growth and competition all its own. The resurgence of riverboats in general has certainly helped the riverboat gambling business. This has never been more apparent than in recent times.
Just this year, the Mississippi River was reopened for cruises courtesy of American Cruise Lines and the Great American Steamboat Company after the recession in 2008 and 2009 caused the existing riverboats to cease operations. The Great American Steamboat Company will be operating the 436-passenger American Queen, a ship acquired for $15.5 million and has undergone significant renovations to improve her technical systems and overall decor. American Cruise Lines, on the other hand, built their ship from scratch. The Queen of the Mississippi can hold 149 passengers, and travels much more quickly than its predecessors, allowing passengers to spend more time at port enjoying the river. A variety of other riverboats are now offering cruises down the Mississippi as well. An exhaustive list of such cruises can be found here.
While the new boats on the market offer far more, the most well-known use for riverboats is the gambling. The tables in the various riverboat casinos offer a similar variety of options – mostly blackjack, craps, roulette, and slot machines – the difference between them can really be found in the amenities. For example, what makes the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Illinois be considered one of the best casinos in the area (no small feat given the casinos in nearby Indiana) is the fact that it has the loosest verified slots of all the riverboat casinos in the area, making it a great attraction for people looking to increase their chances at winning. Its suburban Chicago location also makes it a great place to spend one night of your trip between all the amazing sightseeing opportunities that “The Second City” has to offer.
Another great example is the Boomtown Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana. The Boomtown Casino isn’t just a great casino, as it is attached to the Boomtown Hotel which features elegant furnishings and amenities to go along with great restaurants and cafes. If you go to Boomtown, or other similar locations, you are not just going to gamble and have a few drinks; you can enjoy a nice weekend vacation as well. See here for a full list of nearby attractions which includes a Mardi Gras museum, arena football, a vibrant boardwalk, and a theatre.
Finally, some riverboat casinos like the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi even have special arrangements with local entertainment. This way, you can arrange your entire stay in one place rather than going crazy organizing every part of your itinerary separately. The Hollywood has a great lineup of entertainment, from their golf course, to shows and other events. They also feature the largest collection of movie memorabilia in the mid-South. Their collection is certainly something not to be missed for the movie buff in your crew.
As you can now see, there is no need to turn your desire for a few hours of gambling into a major trip to Vegas. The resurgence of riverboat gambling has really been an unsurprising revelation given the increasing legality of the establishment, the size of the gambling industry, and consumer demand. Riverboats have really opened up an entire industry of entertainment for people who want to gamble casually and for others who want a nearby weekend of fun.
About The Author: Michael Goldstone is a travel writer for a variety of publications both on the internet and in print. His favorite vacation destination is anywhere with warm blue water and a quiet beach. When not writing or travelling, Michael enjoys playing a variety of exciting casino games until he finds the next up-and-coming riverboat that he can explore.