Georgia’s Emerald Princess Casino Cruise Office Fire Under Investigation

Posted on: March 15, 2021, 02:36h. 

Last updated on: March 16, 2021, 04:36h.

A casino cruise ship ticketing office in Brunswick, Ga., was destroyed over the weekend by a late-night fire. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Emerald Princess casino cruise Georgia
The ticketing office of the Emerald Princess Casino cruise ship is seen here engulfed in a fire. The blaze resulted in the building being deemed a total loss. (Image: Emerald Princess Casino)

The Emerald Princess Casino sits aboard a 200-foot vessel that features four decks of gaming. It docks along the East River in Georgia just west of Jekyll Island and the Atlantic Ocean.

Glynn County Fire Rescue officials tell The Brunswick News that a fire ignited at the casino’s ticketing office late Saturday night on March 13. 

County Fire Chief R.K. Jordan revealed that the blaze resulted in a total loss of the building. Jordan says a security guard unsuccessfully tried to distinguish the fire with an extinguisher. 

When the call came in it was reported that the porch was on fire and moving inside. When our first units got there, it was very well involved,” Jordan explained.

The Emerald Princess Casino features 250 slot machines and 19 table games. The ship sails on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The cruises are five hours long, the lone exception being a six-hour sail on Saturday nights. Entry costs $10. 

Gambling Waters

Georgia is one of only eight states that does not have any commercial or tribal casinos. Other than the lottery, gambling remains illegal in the state.  

The Emerald Princess Casino operates legally by only commencing onboard gambling once the vessel reaches 12 nautical miles (approximately 13.8 miles) off the shore and enters international waters.

The 1991 Cruise Ship Competitiveness Act was passed to try and institute some sort of regulatory oversight of gaming in international waters. The slots and tables are governed by the International Council of Cruise Lines. But critics say cruise ship gaming is far less regulated than a commercial or tribal casino.

Casino Cruise Controversies

Many of the gaming ships are a far cry from a glitzy, high-end brick-and-mortar casino. Recent reviews of the Emerald Princess have expressed concerns with the aging vessel. Others reported having their trips canceled because of mechanical issues.

Just pure nasty,” read one Google review of the Emerald Princess. “Slots are traps. Few of them are missing lines and numbers.” 

Another: “The ship needs a major renovation. The restrooms were disgustingly dirty. Carpets need cleaned. Unless you’re addicted to gambling do not get on this boat.”

Others, however, have had more enjoyable experiences. “To all the negative reviewers, you must have had a horrible losing night. I almost did not go because of the reviews, but I am so glad I did!” said local Jeff Cooper. The casino has an overall rating of 3.7/5 based on more than 500 Google reviews. 

The Emerald Princess operation isn’t the only casino cruise business to suffer damage in recent years. 

In 2017, just a week after its grand opening, the Jacks or Better casino vessel in Galveston, Tx., struck a buoy on its return. A rather dramatic patron aboard linked the commotion from the accident to the Titanic.

The ship’s owners said the accident cost $40,000, and launched an online poll asking whether they should fire the captain who was commanding the boat that day. After public backlash, the owners said they were only trying to gauge guests’ comfort level in sailing again with the captain. 

In 2018, a casino boat on Florida’s Gulf Coast north of Tampa unexpectedly caught fire just moments after setting sail. More than 50 passengers and employees were forced to jump off the Tropical Breeze Casino into cold, shallow water. One woman later died, and more than a dozen people sustained injuries that required emergency attention.