The first riverboat casino in the US found in the Mississippi River | Business news

The first riverboat casino to open in the United States, and Biloxi now sits in the mud of Memphis as the Mississippi River recedes.

To see the fate of the Diamond Lady on Facebook – covered in mud when she emerged from where she sank a year ago – is a sad ending to her story.

“It made my heart break. I didn’t really know what happened to him, ”said Rich Westfall, who followed the Diamond Lady and her sister boat, the Emerald Lady, from Bettendorf, Iowa to Biloxi 30 years ago.

Mississippi games

This photo, taken on August 1, 1992, shows Tommy Gollott preparing for his first legal “dice roll” in Mississippi and Capri Biloxi Island. (Sun Herald file)

He was the company’s marketing director and staff member who opened a pair of boats as the Isle of Capri casino on August 1, 1992 – the first casino in Biloxi and the Southeast.

The Diamond Lady was reportedly stored at Lake McKellar, near the Mississippi River in Tennessee, in 2008, and sank in 2021 while freezing.

The river boat is now fully visible as the Mississippi River drops to a historic low. The photos show that although her decks are still somewhat intact and her name still appears on the hull, the double funnels no longer stand high and the ship has lost its glow.

Vanna White helped baptize the Diamond Lady

Westfall remembers when she actually was the Diamond Lady. “It’s such a beautifully built river boat, tough and fast.”

Bernie Goldstein, who became known as the “father of the river gambling,” built boats in 1990 in Iowa as replicas of the 1880s paddleboats that sailed the Mississippi River.

Casinos on river boats in Biloxi

Twin river boats with casinos were the entire island of Capri Casino 30 years ago. The hotel, spa, restaurants and infinity pool later appeared. River ships left Iowa and the Isle of Capri was the first casino to open in Mississippi on August 1, 1992. (Sun Herald File)

“Vanna White was there on opening day,” Westfall said, and cut the ribbon on April 1, 1991, a year before finding a home on the Mississippi coast.

“They were identically built,” he said of the Diamond Lady and the Emerald Lady, simply adorned with a variety of furniture and colors, and fitted with luxurious Abenson rug, crystal glass and beautiful finishes.

At the top of both boats was the Texas deck which he said was an open place to rest.

From Iowa to Mississippi

Iowa regulations limited riverboat casino space to just 30 percent, Westfall said. Goldstein decided to move his boats where he could earn a living, and on July 5, 1992, the ladies left Iowa for Biloxi, where the welcome parade of boats was heard by the roar of thunder.

He said the boats’ interiors were filled with all the slot machines and table games allowed under Mississippi regulations.

Lucky 7, which originated from Iowa with boats, connected them and provided a poker room and dining space, he said.

River boat on the island of Capri

The Isle of Capri casino at Point Cadet in Biloxi in 1994 had one of the two original river boats and one barge. (photo of Sun Herald by Herb Welch)

Capri Island and other casinos that quickly opened in the south of the Mississippi were met with such enthusiasm that they soon needed more space.

“We turned two riverboats into a two-tier barge,” said Westfall.

In 1994, an 18 million barge, with tall windows and tropical colors, replaced the 1800-style Diamond Lady river boat and the Lucky 7 Pavilion, the Sun Herald reported.

“The casino is a floating building that complements the offices and restaurant ashore,” the article said. It featured 716 slot machines – 76 more than The Diamond Lady – and table games.

The following year, the hotel opened, Westfall said.

Where is the Emerald Lady?

Westfall said he heard the Emerald Lady was in Ohio and turned into a ship for dinner.

Captain Don Sanders, who wrote a series of articles about his time on the Mississippi River for the North Kentucky Tribune, reported in 2016 that BB Riverboats had purchased the Emerald Lady and converted it into a cruise boat.

The website shows that the Belle of Cincinnati, as the Emerald Lady is now known, is still used for sightseeing cruises and summer lunch tours along the river in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

“She was built to last, and it was a beautiful boat,” Westfall said of the Diamond Lady, and her emerald twin.


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