Why are casinos on boats?

In the aftermath of the complete destruction of Southern Mississipi’s tax base, I wonder why some states don’t allow gambling on land but do let riverboat gambling occur. Anti-gambling arguments fall into two categories, from what I’ve seen:

Racist liberals who think stupid poor people will put the rent money on Red if given a chance so we have to protect them from themselves.

Christian busybodies who think gambling makes God angry(I’m unclear on how blackjack is a sin but, I dunno, investing in a hedge fund isn’t).

Either way, I don’t see how putting the casino on a boat satisifies either group. What’s the logic there? I imagine land based casinos would be a bit less prone to hurricane damage, as well as presumably being better for the enviroment.

I don’t see “gambling tends to drive the neighborhood to seed as a universal rule” in there.

Boat casinos are universally done as a hack to get legalized gambling in the doors in areas where they can’t get it passed otherwise. “Hey, the ships will just steam up and down”; I think the implication is that somehow the crime and general shittiness will somehow not arrive then. Of course, they end up tied up on the shore and basically become very badly zoned land casinos.

If I had to guess, I’d say that a large part of it is tradition. 150 years ago, riverboats travelled the “border” between civilized America and the untamed west. It was a kind of demarcation between order and chaos. And then they stayed there, gradually becoming entrenched interests. I’d go so far as to posit that if someone brings up anti-casino rumblings in the areas, the casinos’ lawyers and friends start talking to the lawmakers about heritage and history. That’s before they even have to grease the wheels!

Does anyone understand your posts anymore?

Shift, it’s pretty much guarenteed that the areas around casinos go straight to hell economically and crime-wise.

That’s interesting, I’ve never heard that before. What’s your source on that?

Really? Well, this google search pops up some papers:


I wasn’t disagreeing with what you said as I have no idea on the subject. I was telling you that I couldn’t figure out WTF you were trying to say.

From an article(and Jason, for stuff like this, you should go to Google Scholar instead of regular google) that in the end concludes that casinos cause crime(it was hosted on the unambigiously biased website “noslots.com”):

The General Accounting Office (GAO) and NGISC concluded that definitive conclusions cannot
yet be made about the casino-crime link. According to the GAO (2000, p. 35), “In general, existing
data were not sufficient to quantify or define the relationship between gambling and crime… although
numerous studies have explored the relationship between gambling and crime, the reliability of many
of these studies is questionable.” This paper contributes to the literature on this important issue by
addressing each of the above limitations.

They’re on boats because it’s illegal to build them on the ground in that region. Loop holes.

There are a lot of good arguments against casinos to be sure, but this one just isn’t true. The area around the casino in Joliet, Illinois, where I work, is no paradise, but it has immeasurably improved both in terms of economics and reduction in crime since the casino opened.

And, yes, the original reason that they were placed on riverboats was to circumvent laws against permanent gambling buildings. The crusing aspect was another argument made in their favor that, as has been pointed out, was quickly abandoned once they were established.

Really? Maybe it’s a urban thing then; I know all the stories I’ve heard about them around where I grew up, and here in WA, are not pretty.

A lot depends on the level of corruption surrounding the ownership of the casino and the state and local governments, all of which are likely to be considerable. At least in this part of Illinois, the casino license, despite the incredible corruption in the granting of the license, forces the casino owners to cough up enough money into the local tax base that it does make a postive difference.

Without that, well, you may have chicken/egg question there too. Did the casino cause the neighborhood’s downfall? Generally casinos aren’t placed in economically thriving areas to begin with.

They just built a racino near where I live. No appreciable change in crime nearby, unless you include traffic code violations caused by all the brain-damaged Texas drivers reeled into New Mexico by it. The other side of town has a growing gang problem, but that’s been bubbling for years.

They built it out in the middle of the desert though.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Atlantic City is largely considered to have gone to hell after gambling was introduced. People now just drive or bus into the casinos and leave right after they’re done. The city went from a destination shore town with lots of businesses to one dominated by casinos and pawn shops. I think it’s the poster child for Jason’s assertion.

Maybe crime didn’t go up substantially, but the entire fabric of that city changed because of the casinos. It’s notable that they are beachfront. They are not on boats.

My mother went to the Steel Pier back when they had the horse diving and all that. AC was a beautiful place to sit on the beach. We went back some years ago to find dirty black sand and just an ugly place. It’s gotten somewhat better since then, but there’s no doubt that the casinos totally transformed that city.


Hmph. Fat lot of good my anecdotes are doing. Curse you, reality!

Ew, Atlantic City is a shithole, I advise you avoid it like the plague. The only thing the city’s done is make it easier and faster to get directly to and from the casinos without passing through all of the crappy, run-down neighborhoods in between.

Why are casinos on boats?

I think the recent (last ~15 years) trend started in Iowa, and quickly spread to Illinois, then Missouri, then virtually every state with a river or coastline.

The original logic was that this historic landmark - the passenger riverboat, was dying, and something was needed to save it. Hey, why don’t we let them put a few slot machines on board for extra money?

In Iowa, there was originally a $200 loss limit, and the boats had to cruise for 3 hours (i.e., be riverboats).

Illinois saw that it was working for Iowa, and didn’t want to lose tax revenue to it’s neighbors, so it legalized riverboat gambling, with slightly laxer limitations.

In Missouri, riverboat gambling barely passed, and again, the boats had to cruise for 3 hours, $200 loss limits, etc.

But, soon competition erupted. The early boats were simple - riverboats, not casinos, and began losing business to the purpose-built casino boats. So the early boats petitioned (bribed?) the political leadership for higher limits, an end to cruising, etc. Soon, there was a race to the bottom, and the boats stopped cruising, limits got very high/eliminated, and they became moored casinos.

In Missouri, infamously, we got ‘boats in moats’ - operators built small ponds, a quarter mile inland but more convenient for their development, and then put a structure on these man-made ponds that nominally ‘floated’ (though it had not the slightest resemblance, inside or out, to a boat). This caused an uproar, which conveniently enough for the operators, led to a banning on future ‘boats in moats’, but sanctioned the ones already built. Yes - legalize what I’ve done, but prohibit future competitors.

AC has also run into some of the same phenomenon that killed Asbury Park. Both were big tourist destinations for people from NYC in the days when railroads were the dominant mode of long-distance transportation. Following the advent of affordable air transportation it became easier to go to nicer places. Asbury’s a real shithole now, and they don’t have any casinos.

That’s not to say that casinos didn’t contribute to AC’s degredation - I just dxon’t think you can possibly draw a causal relationship between the two.


I’m sorry Dave, but this is just wrong. Atlantic City had become a shithole well before the casinos arrived. The idea was the casinos would bring back the former glory. Well, they brought back the boardwalk, but the rest of the city remained a shithole. The casinos didn’t cause the fall of the city. That happened well before they got there. The casinos just were not the solution that the city was promised. They didn’t help the city’s horrible unemployment, because all the employees came from outside the city. And, isn’t it amazing, they somehow never made enough money contribute substantially to city’s economy. Note the recent bankruptcy of Trump’s casino/hotel.