Mississippi Historic Riverboat Casino’s Sunken Shell Exposed by Drought
Posted on: October 28, 2022, 04:36h.
Last updated on: May 19, 2023, 02:51h.
An updated story about the Diamond Lady appears here.
The drought-receded Mississippi River has exposed an historic riverboat casino. The Diamond Lady officially launched modern gambling in not one, but two US cities after it first set sail 31 years ago. It sank last year during a freeze in the Mississippi River near Memphis, where it had been stored since 2008.
The Diamond Lady, built by scrap-metal magnate Bernie Goldstein, was the first legal gambling boat launched into Iowa’s portion of the Mississippi River since the 19th century. A replica of the old paddlewheel boats that once regularly cruised the waterway, it featured multiple decks with slot machines dinging on each floor and low ceilings you could reach up and touch.
Iowa’s Boat Comes In
Three thousand excited people lined the dock in Bettendorf, Ia., on April 1, 1991, to watch Vanna White christen its first excursion. The riverboat took four trips that day, including a dinner cruise that cost $37.95.
The guests couldn’t keep boarding fast enough – more than half a million during the Diamond Lady’s first year of operation. Riverboat gambling, legalized by Iowa in July 1989, gave the state a needed jolt after the farm implementation industry crisis of the 1980s.
But gaming regulations required scheduled, four-hour cruise times, $200 spending limits, and no more than $5 bets. Also, only 30% of a boat’s space could be devoted to gambling. According to Goldstein, these regulations cost him millions in his first year of operation.
In 1992, Goldstein announced plans to move the Diamond Lady south on the river to Biloxi, Mississippi, whose regulations and tax rates were more to his liking. After the Diamond Lady’s last cruise on July 5 of that year, she and her sister ship, the Emerald Lady, sailed to Biloxi’s eastern tip. Here, Goldstein tied them permanently together and to a dock. That created the Isle of Capri, Mississippi’s first dockside casino.
The Isle of Capri – the first gaming establishment to trade on the NASDAQ – began Biloxi’s transformation from a sleepy former seafood capital of the world to a major southern gaming destination.
But the former Diamond Lady and Emerald Lady were replaced, in 1994, by a two-level, $18 million barge. In either 2002 or 2003, the Diamond Lady and her landing barge were moved to McKellar Lake’s Cummings Marine facility, owned by George Cummings. They were tied up there with Goldstein’s President Riverboat Casino, which he moved to Woodriver, Ill. a few years later.
Goldstein died in Bettendorf in 2009 at age 80.
Diamond in the Rough
The Diamond Lady is now among several sunken boats stuck in McKellar Lake’s mud as the Mississippi reaches record-low water levels. Where the ship is stranded, the water is currently 10.71 feet below the historical average. That breaks a level of 10.70 below average set back in 1954, according to the National Weather Service. Water levels are at or below the low-water threshold along a nearly 400-mile stretch of the river.
More than a third of the rain in the US ends up in the Mississippi River system. However, with little or no rainfall coming from the Midwest, the river is drying up.
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Last Comments ( 38 )
Let the homeless bums live in it for free while it's above the water line and also below too.
Burn it to the ground now while it's dry.
No way this heap is worthy of "rebuilding" because of too many regulations and rules to ever make it economically feasible. It will cost a small fortune just to scrap and with the economy possibly taking a downturn, junk like this won't even get scrapped. There it will sit- a monument to the economic realities of our times. We pretend to be so eco-friendly and environmentally conscious but we leave this and countless other abandoned objects for our grandchildren to deal with.
I was on the maiden voyage in 1991 I worked on rhe diamond lady from opening day til they moved to Biloxi ,it was a wonderful experience for me in my youth ,I started as a housekeeper later ,became a black jack and craps dealer ,I met and worked with a great bunch of people ,Derrick W
When I was a teenager teenager over 47 years ago we still swimming and bitching in Mississippi River that was the best time I had in my life I reckon but I just say life and time move on in memories fade away but in my days had some good old time with that girl Mississippi I remember how I I used to jump off the bridge and go swimming right down the middle of her wetness you see me in that old girl Mississippi back in the 1980s with a good old time
My husband and me were on the maiden voyage in Bettendorf. Won tickets from Mix 96. So fun. Beautiful one armed bandit. Sad to see its demise.
I worked in the factory that they shut down and replaced with a riverboat. Not a fair trade and no fond memories here.
As a navy vet,I can tell you those 2 boats can't be saved especially if they are are that old and sitting on their keels(they weren't designed to take those kinds of stress)
If it cannot be refurbished, maybe they should work on removing it from the river.
They could pull out all thr boats nationwide that is above water level from this drought, and clean up the rivers, and lakes, but everyone complain about the cost.
Can they get her cleaned up fixed and relaunch her a true legacy!!
I have crossed the river at Biloxi many times starting all the way back to before the interstate was built and the new bridge was built. Crossing on the old bridge in a semi, you had a steal pipe rail at the pavement next to the walls. If you were to meet another truck going the other direction you got over and allowed your tires to rub the pipe and if the truck coming at you was doing the same thing then you could pass without your mirrors hitting. I have seen the river pretty low but I have also seen it out of its banks and all the way up to where the interstate bridge on the west side had water all the way to where the bridge starts .
all the s talking about will not help the west in a drought.
What ever happened to the ability to seed clouds to produce Rain. What about that crazy weather contraption we always used to see. I thought the government had a little control on determining weather.
It is obvious that this boat was not sunk as is mentioned. You can see that the upper half was but buried. Why it has not been removed is strange.