Riverboat Gaming Celebrates 20 Years of Entertainment
Posted: April 1, 2011
Casino gaming changed dramatically on April 1, 1991. Not only is today the 20th anniversary of modern riverboat casinos in America, but it also marks a major step in gaming becoming one the nation’s favorite leisure past times. Further, the advent of riverboat casinos sparked the growth of an industry that has meant hundreds of thousands of American jobs and tens of billions of dollars in much need tax revenues.
And Iowa’s where it all started. Today, the state boasts 17 gaming properties (seven riverboats, seven land-based and three racetrack casinos), bringing in more than 22 million visitors each year and contributing more than 10,000 jobs to the state. The properties have a substantial positive impact on the communities where they’re located, purchasing more than $216 million in products and services from in-state companies and generating more than $300 million in tax revenue annually at a time when state budgets are tight.
The State of Iowa legalized riverboat gaming in July 1989. Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi all eventually followed suit. Today, commercial casinos – including land-based, riverboat and racetrack casinos – operate in 22 states. Nationwide, commercial and racetrack casinos employ about 350,000 employees, and paid $7.2 billion in gaming tax revenue and distributions to state and local governments in 2009.
These articles do a great job of telling the riverboat story. And, as the following fact sheet shows, the colorful history of riverboat gaming in America is still part of the strong appeal of this unique way of delivering fun, games and entertainment.
20 years ago, riverboats brought Iowa jackpots and jobs - and problems, critics note
Des Moines Register
March 31, 2011
Casino groups have donated millions
Quad City Times
March 26, 2011
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of U.S. Riverboat Gaming with
20 Fun Facts about Riverboat and Casino Gaming
1. In 1989, during a time of economic uncertainty for many businesses, the gaming industry was expanding. That year, the state of Iowa passed the first riverboat casino legislation in the nation, legalizing riverboat gaming along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
2. Twenty years ago, on April 1, 1991, the Diamond Lady left Bettendorf, Iowa as the first riverboat casino to set sail in the nation, kick-starting a region reeling from a farming crisis.
3. Before gambling was considered legal, it occurred informally among riverboat passengers, both travelers and card sharks. Adorned in three-piece suits, detailed vests, and fedoras, flashy riverboat gamblers had their glory days between 1840 and 1860.
4. Gambling on the river was seen as an alternative to laws prohibiting most types of gambling on dry land. However, today some riverboat casinos don’t sail – they stay docked the legally required distance from the main land.
5. The word "casino" itself is of Italian origin and means "small villa" or "summerhouse" - a place built for pleasure.
6. In 1638, the first casino was built in Venice, Italy, and was called the Ridotto – “retreat” in Italian.
7. Playing cards were invented by the Chinese, but greatly influenced by the French. In fact, the French developed card suits to represent the four classes of man at the time: diamonds for merchants, clubs for peasants, hearts for the clergy and spades for the nobility.
8. The Italians and the French still argue over who invented the game of blackjack.
9. In the 17th century, while trying to invent a perpetual motion machine, French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal instead invented the Roulette machine. Pascal is also credited with developing the first calculator and is the first reported person to wear a wrist watch, which he tied to his wrist with a string.
10. Craps got its odd name from a nickname given to the French Creoles of New Orleans, Johnny Crapauds, which means “Johnny the Toad” in French, and is considered derogatory.
11. Dice are the oldest gaming tool available today, the oldest known of which were excavated as part of a 5000-year-old backgammon set. Casino dice are often made by hand to ensure precision-edges and corners for the greatest probability of being fair.
12. The first slot machine was invented by Mr. Charles Fey in 1899. An auto mechanic, he designed the machine so his customers had something to do while they waited.
13. Ever heard of a dice swallower? In eighteenth-century English gambling dens, there was an employee whose only job was to swallow the dice in the event of a police raid.
14. U.S. enforcement of gambling laws in the 1800s was difficult due to the multiple changes making gaming legal or illegal. As a result of legislation passed in 1861 and 1865, gambling was outlawed primarily due to moral objections. It wasn’t until 1931 when casino gaming was finally legalized in the state of Nevada.
15. The first Las Vegas casino built was the Pair-o-Dice Club, which opened in 1931 on Highway 91, outside of the city limits. The club was a “speakeasy" that offered alcoholic beverages (illegal during Prohibition) as well as illegal gambling.
16. The first casino located on what is currently the Strip was the El Rancho Vegas, opened on April 3, 1941, with 63 rooms. Harry James and Betty Grable were performing a late show on stage on June 17, 1960 when a fire broke out that destroyed the hotel. Today, the Hilton Grand Vacation Club occupies the land where this first Strip casino once stood.
17. In 1975, Bally Technologies’ ticker symbol “BLY” flashed across the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This historic event marked the first time a gaming company joined the ranks of the corporate elite as a publicly traded company.
18. International Game Technology, a global leader in the design, development and manufacturing of gaming machines and systems products, is one of the top 100 U.S. patent holders.
19. Jubilee! is the longest-running production show on the Las Vegas Strip, and the last true showgirl show of its kind in North America.
20. Today, commercial casinos – including land-based, riverboat and racetrack casinos – operate in 22 states. Nationwide, commercial and racetrack casinos employ about 350,000 employees, and paid $7.2 billion in gaming tax revenue and distributions to state and local governments in 2009.