The majestic 19th century riverboats which plied the Mighty Mississippi River were more than mere aquatic transport. These stately, floating hotels began to house casinos when gambling on land was forbidden. Casinos on land were outlawed in 1880 in Louisiana. But when the going gets tough; the tough go sailing. So the riverboat casino was born, and the rest is the stuff of legends.
As these maritime mobile casinos slowly cruised down the rivers and bayou waterways with their paddlewheels churning water and stacks belching steam clouds, a colorful cast of characters put their chips down in the riverboat casinos. These days, you can still gamble on riverboat casinos in Louisiana, and here are some of the finest examples the Southern state has to offer.
Isle of Capri Casino Lake Charles
The riverboats in Louisiana no longer cruise up and down the Mississippi River on gambling adventures. A change in state gambling laws allowed the boats to be permanently moored on waterways across Louisiana. And not all these riverboats are on the river itself.
The Isle of Capri Casino riverboat is moored in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and makes up part of a larger resort hotel complex there. But it still floats in all its majesty, its deck lights drawing gamblers like moths to the proverbial flame.
The decks are bedecked with casino gaming floors featuring 34 table games, 11 poker tables, and more than 1,175 slots. Visitors can sample all of the local flavors which make up the rich tapestry of Louisiana culture. The mingling of Cajun, creole, and French culture is ever-present in the food and music on offer aboard the Isle of Capri.
Dine at Henry’s Bar and Grill, Lone Wolf Express, Farmer’s Pick Buffet, and Otis Steakhouse. Let a balmy evening breeze wash over you as you listen to live bands ala ‘Louisiana Swamp Pop,’ a flavor of Louisiana zydeco music.
The Isle of Capri recently broke its moorings and drifted into a bridge when Hurricane Laura whipped up the winds and waves. Check with the casino website to see when the riverboat plans to be reopened after repairs.
The Amelia Belle is a grand old riverboat built in the style of its vintage ancestors, with all the glitz and glamour of a casino housed in its four stories. The Amelia Belle is moored in the Bayou in Amelia, Louisiana, south of Lake Palourde. Owned and operated by Boyd Gaming, the Amelia Belle offers Ultimate Texas Hold’em, 3-Card Poker, and Mississippi Stud.
The Belle offers all of the turn-of-the-century splendor combined with generous promotions like the $10,000 cash giveaway and a lucky $777 slot jackpot. Enjoy food and drink in the Bayou Cafe, or go for the legendary all-you-can-eat Cajun Buffet.
Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino is docked on the Red River in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana. Run by Boyd Gaming, Sam’s Town is a well-known casino brand across the U.S. Decked from stem to stern in an Old West theme, this classic casino riverboat is docked right near downtown Shreveport, for city walks steeped in Southern charm.
As is the case with many casino riverboats, the boat is docked near a casino as part of a larger whole. So you can bask in Old West charm, Southern style, on the boat, or check into the 23-story casino hotel tower ashore.
In addition to the regional poker variation Mississippi Stud, you can play blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, Let It Ride, progressive slots, and more. And the best part: the action is nonstop, 24 hours a day.
For a sample of the finest in decadent Southern cuisine, sink your teeth into a juicy steak at William B’s Steakhouse, or try the International Buffet or Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge
There seems to be no shortage of Hollywoods in the U.S., with the well-known ones in California and Florida. In Louisiana, the riverboat casino is the other Hollywood, and it’s located in Baton Rouge, docked downtown on the Mighty Mississippi. This is another opportunity for some surf and turf gambling adventures on land and on water.
The boat boasts 1,100 slots and dozens of classic casino table games, including blackjack, 3-card poker, roulette, craps, and Cajun Stud. Watch out for the last game; sounds a bit spicy.
The Hollywood Casino riverboat combines the glamor of Hollywood with the decadence of Las Vegas, southern style. So you can dive into the Epic Buffet, grab a Cajun delicacy at the Take Two Deli, or hob nob at the Celebrity Grill. And then there’s the weekly Sunday champagne brunch or the monthly Jazz brunch to celebrate the soundtrack of the Big Easy and the birthplace of cool.
Treasure Chest Casino
The Treasure Chest Casino riverboat is moored on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and listed as being in Kenner, Louisiana. But they really did bury the lead on this location; the lake shares its shores with New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz and the home of Mardi Gras. So you can enjoy the Big Easy in NOLA proper and pillage the Treasure Chest on the lake – all in the same trip.
The Treasure Chest is a classic riverboat dripping with southern charm with a hint of New Orleans; as if a historic hotel from the French Quarter broke away for a dip in the lake. Lavish interiors, dance bands and live jazz complete the experience.
The betting boat is open until 5 a.m. so you can gamble all night till the sun comes up. The gaming floor holds 36 table games including craps, roulette, blackjack, Fortune Pai Gow, and the ubiquitous Mississippi Stud. Dine in the Vista Buffet and Café Pontchartrain for a taste of the local flavors.
Time to Set Sail
Even if the boats are no longer plowing through the bayou and snaking along the Mighty Mississippi, you can still enjoy the old world charm of a riverboat casino adventure in Louisiana, safely in the docked boats. And these riverboats offer a nostalgic and luxurious glimpse into the past.
Gambling laws change, and Louisiana politicians are slowly chewing on the idea of moving all casinos back to dry land. Which means that the riverboat casinos of Louisiana won’t be the only game in town. But they’ll probably always be there as symbols of a wild evening of food, drink, music, and gambling, and a past firmly rooted in the mythology of Mark Twain and the Southern charm chapter of American history.
So get down to Louisiana, hop on a riverboat casino adventure for a really good time, and enjoy all the food, culture, music, and casino action a gambler could ever desire.
And as they say in New Orleans: if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.
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