When you think of gambling in the U.S., you probably think of casinos in major gambling hubs such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City. But did you know that the U.S. also has major roots in riverboat casinos?
The deep-rooted history of riverboat gambling in the U.S. can be traced back more than 200 years. As more cities passed ordinances against gambling houses in urban settings, purveyors moved on to the unregulated (deemed “international”) waters of the Mississippi and other waterways aboard river steamers. The steamers weren’t considered floating casinos, but rather, a place where passengers could gamble among themselves.
Over time, the regulations were changed and allowed gambling when the ship was docked. In today’s world of riverboat gambling, some states no longer require the boats to leave dock or have a captain or crew on board.
Since most of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast riverboat casinos were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, several states now allow riverboat casinos to be built on land—as long as they are near a navigable waterway. Today’s riverboat casino is more likely to be docked and part of a much larger complex than one that navigates up and down the Mississippi.
Even those who don’t like being on the water can still enjoy the unique adventure of gambling on a riverboat casino! Here is a list of some of the top states for U.S. riverboat casinos:
Iowa was the first state to offer legal riverboat gambling in an effort to collect tax revenue. If casinos were housed on riverboats they could legally operate—as long as the boats sailed into the Mississippi River every once in a while. Today, Iowa is home to more than a dozen riverboat casinos, including the 30,000-square-foot Rhythm City Casino. Moored on the Mississippi River in Davenport, Rhythm City Casino has approximately 870 slots (traditional reel-type, video, and video poker) ranging from $0.01 to $25.00 per spin. It also has 12 table games, where visitors can play pai gow, ultimate Texas hold’em, 21+3 blackjack, sharp shooter, and Mississippi stud. After gambling, you can spend some quality time in the restaurant that seats more than 200 guests or check out the entertainment.1
After the successful launch of riverboat casinos in Iowa, other states followed suit, including Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Missouri.
Illinois was the second state to legalize riverboat gambling in February 1990. In September 1991, the first riverboat casino began operation in Alton. Today, there are 10 casinos operating throughout the state!2
If you want a riverboat casino that looks like a traditional riverboat, then you might want to try the 30,000-square-foot Grand Victoria Casino. Just 45 minutes from Chicago, the Grand Victoria Casino sits on the Fox River and has over 1,100 video poker and slot machines.3 It also has a countless variety of Vegas-style table games, including baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, and Texas hold’em poker. For the big spenders, the Grand Victoria also has a high-limit room.
Louisiana was the fourth state to allow casino gambling in 1991—the state approved a maximum of 15 riverboat casinos.
One of the more popular riverboat destinations near the Gulf is the Treasure Chest Casino. While the casino does not have accommodations, it is located next to the Hilton Garden Inn, overlooking Lake Pontchartrain and the Laketown area. Treasure Chest Casino provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the hotel.4
What Treasure Chest Casino does have is plenty of gambling! The casino’s 25,767-square-foot gaming floor features 950 gaming machines. Treasure Chest Casino also has 36 table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps, mini baccarat, Mississippi stud, flop poker, three-Card poker, four-card poker, and fortune pai gow.
Not all riverboat casinos are on the Mississippi. In fact, some riverboat casinos are even seaworthy!
Victory Casino Cruises is America’s biggest casino ship, featuring five-hour cruises on the Atlantic Ocean departing from Port Canaveral. Victory offers four decks of gaming (including two non-smoking decks), and can accommodate up to 1,200 passengers on its 40,000-square-foot ship.5
Victory has over 600 slot machines on all four decks. The Vegas-style slots range in price from a penny up to $100.00. Victory also has video poker games, many with multilevel progressives.
Victory also has a large number of gaming tables where you can play blackjack, craps, roulette, EZ baccarat, three-card poker, and ultimate Texas hold’em. If that’s not your speed, you can enjoy an evening of bingo!
Sports fans will enjoy Victory’s SportsBook—the SportsBook includes flatscreen TVs that showcase all the latest games play, and features a full bar and specialty drinks. Their motto: if you bet on it in Vegas, you can bet on it in Victory’s SportsBook.
Its name might be synonymous with riverboat gambling, but Mississippi was the third state to legalize riverboat gambling in 1990. The law restricts riverboat casinos to navigable water along the Mississippi River and in sturdy waters that border the river.
Oddly enough, Mississippi law also states that riverboats must be permanently moored at
the dock and are not allowed to cruise. On the plus side, this allows riverboats to offer
Did you know that Mississippi law does not require a riverboat casino to actually look like a boat? Most riverboat casinos in Mississippi are built on barges and look more like buildings than traditional paddlewheel riverboats.
The Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Natchez is located on the Mississippi River in the town of Natchez. The six-story, 141-room Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Natchez includes eight suites, eight handicap rooms, 51 king-bed rooms, and 78 doubles. Located approximately one mile from the casino boat, the hotel provides a free continuous shuttle to and from the casino.6
The traditional paddlewheel riverboat casino includes more than 500 popular slot and video poker machines. It also has six table games including roulette, craps, and blackjack, as well as eight additional live poker tables.
What Happens If You Win Big at a Riverboat Casino?
If you happen to win big at a riverboat casino in one of these top destinations, your winnings may be subject to a 30% withholding tax from the IRS. Luckily, if you are a Canadian or non-U.S. resident, you could get this money back. This is where Refund Management Services (RMS) comes in.
Refund Management Services is Canada’s most reliable and experienced gaming and casino tax refund provider. Only RMS has the One Simple StepTM process with an easy form to fill out; our Customer Service Agents take care of the rest and your refund cheque gets mailed out to you as soon as your refund is approved.
Founded by a Canadian Chartered Accountant in 1998, the U.S. gaming tax refund specialists at RMS have CA designation and a long-standing relationship with the IRS for efficient processing. Over the years, RMS has helped thousands of people around the world recover taxes on their U.S. gaming wins. We’ve never been refused an eligible refund. To find out more, contact Refund Management Services today.
1. Rhythm City Casino web site; www.rhythmcitycasino.com/casino.html, last accessed May 11, 2015.
2. Government of Illinois web site; www.igb.illinois.gov/, last accessed May 11, 2015.
3. Grand Victoria Casino web site; www.grandvictoriacasino.com/, last accessed May 11, 2015.
4. Treasure Chest Casino web site; www.treasurechest.com/, last accessed May 11, 2015.
5. Victory Casino Cruises web site; http://victorycasinocruises.com/, last accessed May 11, 2015.
6. Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Natchez web site; http://natchez.isleofcapricasinos.com/, last accessed May 11, 2015.