Riverboat casinos conjure images of gamblers in pork pie hats, the mighty Mississippi, and Mark Twain smoking corn cob pipes. These pieces of Americana can still be found in cities across the United States and make exciting vacation destinations.
Typically, this style of real money casinos are found along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. States known for their riverboats often border and contain tributaries of the Mississippi, although not all.
Once railroad transportation rose to dominance in the early 20th century, riverboats became entertainment destinations with its live music, dancing, and gambling. The riverboats carried guests on small excursions often leaving and docking every several hours.
Riverboats are known as a type of legal fiction, meaning they were created to limit the areas where gambling establishments could be constructed and often never leave the dock.
1 – The Amelia Belle in Amelia, LA
The first riverboat on the list is from Boyd Gaming, a casino and hospitality company based in Paradise, Nevada. Located in Amelia, Louisiana, between Morgan City and Houma, the Amelia Belle rests in the Avoca Island Cutoff waterway.
One of the most beautiful riverboats on my list, this four-story casino has a classic turn of the century look and is impressive when lit up at night. Unique table game offerings include Three-Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, and Mississippi Stud.
Along with your standard fare, the casino has a regular $10,000 giveaway and offers an advertised $777 slots jackpot. Don’t miss their touted Cajun Buffet for classic Louisiana favorites.
2 – The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Illinois
The Grand Victoria is located on the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois. The destination is a holding of El Dorado Resorts, owners of the Tropicana, and another riverboat casino on my list, the Isle of Capri.
40 miles west of Downtown Chicago, the Grand Victoria boasts four restaurants:
- Buckinghams Steakhouse and Lounge
- Indulge Show Kitchen Buffet
- Crave Deli
- Prime Burgerhouse
The casino contains over 1,100 video poker and slot machines in addition to 36 table games. It is the highest-generating casino in the state of Illinois and is known for its community outreach programs. So, you can take added comfort knowing that your fun is contributing to local toy-collecting programs and not-for-profit organizations.
3 – Casino Queen Marquette in Marquette, Iowa
If you’re looking for a more personalized experience, this is your destination. The Queen Marquette is a smaller riverboat casino operated by CQ Holdings and is located in Marquette, Iowa. Like most of the riverboats on this list, the Queen Marquette rests on the Mississippi River. Across the river, you’ll find the quaint midwestern town of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Although the Queen Marquette has only eight tables games, it more than makes up for it with over 566 slot machine games. Table games include blackjack, Mississippi Stud, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, 21+3, Fusion Roulette, Shoot to Win Craps, and Fusion Blackjack.
Although most casinos have hosts whose job is to provide personalized service to casino guests, the Queen Marquette puts extra emphasis on this staff. Owing to their smaller size, they tout more focused attention and accommodation in planning your visit.
4 – Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall in Shreveport, Louisiana
The Sams’s Town name is synonymous with gambling in Las Vegas, but this casino in Shreveport, LA, brings the luxury of Vegas to the South.
All Sam’s slots are progressive, meaning with each play, your chance of winning one of several jackpots becomes greater. A spin of the ol’ triple double stars will win you a jackpot over $90,000.
Along with standard table games, Sam’s Town Shreveport offers variations such as Craps no More, Mini Baccarat, and Let it Ride.
If you’re feeling luxurious, stay in the 760-square-foot Magnolia Suite and dine at the elegant William B’s Steakhouse. Spa Blu offers a variety of spa treatments, including massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, and pedicures. Relax in their dry saunas and steam rooms to unwind after a long day of winning. Check out their entertainment venue, Sam’s Town Live, for great local and national acts.
5 – Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Hollywood Casino is located right across the street from the state capitol building on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Hollywood Casino has an extensive Tier Credit program. At the Executive Producer level, customers can enjoy such benefits as personal host service, access to the exclusive Producer’s Lounge, and free sports tickets.
Hollywood Casino has your standard slots, video poker, and traditional table games.
The Hollywood boasts several restaurants, including The Celebrity Grill, Epic Buffet, the Take Two Deli, and more. After that, you can take to the links on the Copper Mill Golf Club.
Copper Mill is a “links-style” course reminiscent of those found in Scotland, with a unique layout that’s a combination of holes with three par 3 holes, three par 4 holes, and three par 5 holes on each nine. You can also take in the latest movies at the Movie Tavern which offers restaurant quality food while you relax and enjoy the show.
6 – Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, Louisiana
The Isle of Capri Casino, located off the aptly-named Lake Charles in Lake Charles, LA, provides a classic casino experience with a wide range of luxury suites.
The casino contains 30 table games, 11 poker tables, and over 1,100 slots. Like many casinos in southwest Louisiana, you’ll find the unique game of Pai Gow based off of the ancient Chinese game of dominoes adopted for a modern card deck.
Restaurants include the steakhouse Otis and Henry’s Bar and Grill, the Farmer’s Pick Buffet, and the diner-style Lone Wolf Express. Check out the lineup of live local entertainment and hear the unique sounds of Louisiana Swamp Pop, a variation of classic zydeco native to southwest Louisiana.
After dinner, relax on the upper deck with a drink, take in the view of the city lights, and watch the locals stroll along the downtown waterfront.
7 – Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, Louisiana
Located in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Treasure Chest is a 24,000-square-foot dockside riverboat resting on placid Lake Pontchartrain. Enjoy the distant view of the downtown New Orleans skyline and picturesque cypress tree groves in the bayous surrounding Kenner.
Unique table games include Mini Baccarat, Fortune Pai Gow, Flop Poker, Three-Card Poker, and Four-Card Poker. Restaurants include the Vista Buffet and Cafe Pontchartrain, both serving favorites of Louisiana food culture.
Once you’ve eaten your fill of boiled crawfish and steamed crab legs, take in the live entertainment in the Treasure Chests Caribbean Showroom. National acts are great, but the local Cajun and zydeco acts will give you a unique musical experience.
Riverboats may not have all the bells and whistles of your standard casinos (although some do), but what they lack in Vegas style amenities, they more than make up for in character. Riverboat casinos are perfect for those who are in it for the main draw, gambling, and would like to do so in a unique environment.
There are many destinations for riverboat casinos up and down the Mississippi River. There are also a few outside the confines of the “Mighty Mississippi.”
The next time you’re at one of these uniquely American establishments, hearken back to the turn of the century and imagine yourself amongst maverick gamblers and saloon-style showgirls. Riverboat casinos are the stuff of movies and novels, but you can still experience the atmosphere of this early American tradition today.
Keep your eyes peeled when on deck, you might see Huck Finn floating by leisurely on a wooden raft off on his next adventure.