Currently six states—Iowa, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana, and Missouri—allow gaming parlors and casinos on riverboats. Most operate on
the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers. The first state to reintroduce this type of gambling facility was Iowa in 1989, when legislators passed a law permitting riverboat casinos under certain circumstances. According to this measure, gambling in Iowa may occur only on historic or modern riverboats, making cruises on the Mississippi River lasting a specified period of time (usually an hour and a half). Slot machines and table games are allowed.
In Illinois, the second state to authorize riverboat gambling, casino patrons may also board riverboats making regularly scheduled runs; however, they must wait until the boats are fully underway before engaging in gambling activities. Games allowed include blackjack, craps, roulette, and big six. Slot machines and video poker also are permitted. Illinois riverboat casinos, all of which must charge a boarding fee to their customers, have the potential to be very plentiful, as they may cruise on any number of major rivers, including the Mississippi, Des Plaines, Ohio, and Illinois. Casino operators here have also been very successful in presenting Las Vegas–style entertainment, generating even more customer traffic. Already more than 10,000 new jobs have been created in Illinois through the legalization of gambling on riverboats, with an estimated yearly payroll in excess of $250 million.
As a legislative condition for riverboat gambling in Mississippi, the state requires that each county first decide whether or not to approve it. So far four counties—Adams, Claiborne, Handcock, and Tunica—have given the green light to riverboat gambling. It’s probably no coincidence that these counties were at the time also four of the poorest in the state. Mississippi riverboat casinos differ from those in other states in one major way: …