Page 50: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (March 1994)

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per. Both Players vessels were built by Leevac. In part, he at- tributes the success to location, as

Players is the only holder of a riverboat license in Southwest Loui- siana, and the vessel draws nearly 70 percent of its business from


Contrary to reports of owners worried about the status of gaming in Missouri due to the recent legal battle, Mr. Cooper said "It won't affect (our Maryland Heights) project one bit," an operation which is projected for a first quarter 1995 opening. To date, the company has not yet ordered a vessel for the site, but he said once the company gets a feeling for "what will happen and when, we will order a vessel. It's not a matter of if we go forward, it's a matter of how and how fast."

On the overall state of the indus- try and Players' role in, Mr. Cooper said, "The way I look at the industry is only a handful of states have legal- ized, and there are about two or three handfuls which are consider- ing it. I think the industry has a long way to go...the industry is just in its infancy."

While many in the industry are quick to point out the alleged down- falls of the cruising portion of riverboat casinos, Mr. Cooper sees it as a marketing advantage. "The riverboat portion does have some nostalgic appeal to our customers.

Some of our business is through bus groups, older clientele who may not be big gamers but are into the over- all experience."

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The actual vessel procurement and purchase decision varies widely from one owner to the next. On one hand there are companies like Ca- sino America, which is the offshoot of a barge line business in operation since 1960. On the other hand there are companies like Promus, a land- based organization, entirely new to the boat owner/operator role.

Bernard Goldstein, who started Alter Barge Line Inc. in 1960, saw a tremendous expansion oppor- tunity arise with the legalization of riverboat gaming in Iowa, and re- sulted in the formation of Casino

America. "We were in operation in

Iowa since 1960, and that's why when there was talk of riverboat casinos coming to Iowa, I said we have to be involved." Mr.Goldstein, who refers to the "new animal of riverboat casinos," said river expe- rience is very important to ultimate success. Casino America is an un- usual case, as it came to the riverboat gaming table with the marine expe- rience—having its own pilots and engineers—and it had to recruit from the casino industry for its ex- pertise.

But whether marine experience— and personnel—is there to start or picked-up along the way, success as a casino vessel owner/operator is still very plausible. Promus Com- panies, whose Harrah's company has five vessels total—three deliv- ered, two being built—started from ground zero regarding marine ex- perience.

Don Stroessner, director of de- sign and construction, has been with

Promus for roughly six months, com- ing from a background in architec- ture. Mr. Stroessner said Promus counts on the expertise of naval architects, designers and the boat builders to make the Harrah's ves- sels a reality. Harrah's has two

Service Marine-built vessels, the

Northern Star and the Southern

Star, in operation in Joliet, 111.; at press time it took delivery of the

Service Marine-built Shreveport

Rose for Shreveport, La.; and it cur- rently has two vessels under con- struction by Service Marine and

Bender Shipbuilding & Repair, for

Maryland Heights, Mo. and N. Kan- sas City, Mo. respectively. Mr.

Stroessner, who is charged with the task of hiring the architects, designers and negotiating construc- tion contracts, said the marine equip- ment specification is left up to the boatbuilder, and forwarded to him for comment and approval. Cur- rently he uses marine specific con- sultants to review the specs, but he projects as the fleet grows, they may lean toward hiring a marine con- sultant for the staff.

Terming most of the riverboat vessel projects as "fast track," Mr.

Stroessner said the key to a yard winning business is work schedule, past performance, price and people.

Mr. Cooper said Players is very

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