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Casinos bet on area, and vice versa


The Casino Rock Island opens at 9am daily on the Rock Island Riverfront. The casino closes at 12:30am Monday through Friday and 2:30am Saturday and Sunday.

Gamblers with money in their pockets first must choose whether to place their bets on riverboat casinos in Rock Island, Davenport, Bettendorf or Clinton.

No matter which casino games they play or which atmosphere feels more comfortable, gamblers have plenty of options within the Quad-Cities area.

``The best part about Casino Rock Island is the people who work there,'' Kristina Richardson of New Windsor said. ``Their staff greets you when you enter the boat, and do whatever they can to make sure you have a good time.''

Ms. Richardson usually plays the slots, though sometimes ventures to Caribbean stud poker, a table game. One night, she and her husband won $1,970.

``The atmosphere on Casino Rock Island is better than on the other casinos because it's classier and less commercial,'' Ms. Richardson said. ``The burgundies and greens are classy colors, and antiques add to the charm.''

Casino Rock Island's musicians and food also impress her.

``I love their prime rib,'' she said. ``The food meets the same standards as Jumer's restaurant in its Bettendorf hotel. I've never had a bad meal.''

Joining the casino's players' club brought her free gifts.

``I like to get points on the card because you get cash back when you reach a certain level,'' she said. ``My husband got $100 one night, which was like a free night out.''

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

The President Riverboat Casino is open 24 hours a day throughout the weel on the Davenport shoreline.

When the Richardsons want to leave, their valet-parked vehicle is warmed up.

``It doesn't take hardly any time for them to bring your car back,'' she said. ``It's those little things that make a big difference.''

Even if Illinois lawmakers allow dockside gaming, which would make boarding the Casino Rock Island as convenient as entering Iowa casinos, the Richardsons want to continue taking night cruises.

``It's nice to go out on the deck and see all the lights on the river, especially in the summer,'' Ms. Richardson said. ``It's kind of romantic.''

Romance also thrives on The President's five decks as the national landmark welcomes gamblers to Davenport. The casino offers more than 833 slot machines and 44 table games, including live poker, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, roulette, craps, black jack and Pai Gow poker.

Those games are spread over 35,000 square feet of gaming space, giving the casino its nickname, The Big One.

The President's players' club earns cash for play and invitations to special events. A gift shop is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Food at The President ranges from Sunday champagne brunches available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to the Red Eye, open midnight to 5 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays. Hungry gamblers eagerly approach the buffets open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Grill is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Gamblers on The President are invited to use free valet parking or more than 460 lighted parking spaces. A free shuttle service to and from all parking lots and area hotels runs at convenient times.

The President's Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Davenport offers 189 rooms and suites just minutes from the casino.

Just upriver, Lady Luck Casino Bettendorf attracts visitors to two full decks of food, games and entertainment, spokesman Tim Hoenig said.

Gamblers play more than 940 slot machines, video pokers and progressive jackpots. For those who prefer table games, 44 beckon, including blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean stud poker, live poker, Pai Gow poker, Spanish 21 and Let It Ride.

``We get a lot of compliments on our entertainment and food,'' Mr. Hoenig said, which may explain the boat's reputation as ``the party place.''

The Roger Craig's Sports Bar, for example, hosts concerts and monthly Meet and Greet events, when the public can talk with sports personalities. The Curtain Call Cafe invites people to feast on a 70-item buffet or order a la carte from early morning and late night menus.

This summer, Lady Luck Bettendorf and the Bettendorf Riverboat Development Authority broke ground for a $39.5 million project, including a hotel, marina, parking garage, skywalks and railroad overpass. The two-story garage is open for 250 vehicles and includes valet parking.

``Our customers told us they wanted a bright, secure facility, and that's what we're providing,'' director of construction and marine affairs Richard Busby said recently. The garage, he said, is one of the best-lit in the Quad-Cities.

The 256-room hotel, including 36 suites, and railroad overpass are expected to be completed next fall. Construction of the marina is expected to begin in 1999.

Even further upriver in Clinton, the Mississippi Belle II is the classiest boat in Iowa, according to owner Bobby Kehl. The vessel holds up to 1,000 passengers, enticing them with 485 slot and video machines, craps, mini craps, roulette, poker, 13 blackjack tables, Let It Ride and Caribbean stud.

As customers enter the casino, they are greeted by a warm, rich grand lobby, trimmed in green marble faux finishes three decks high. The table games boast rich, mahogany finishes, while gamblers sit on green cloth with veins of red to bring out the beauty of the carpet.

The Mississippi Belle II's ceiling tiles also catch visitors' eyes. The lower ceiling areas have gold reflectile tile, while the high ceiling features a wood tile with a brass scroll surrounding a circle of green marble.

A 40-foot buffet serves prime rib daily, salad, soup, dessert, beef or pork entrees, fish or seafood entres, poultry, vegetables, potatoes and other items the chef decides to make. Meals range from $5.25 to $9.95, depending on the day and time.

The focal point of riverboat's exterior are the large neon signs with its name on each side of the first deck. The green banks painted around each deck are wrapped with three strands of clear lights.

The vessel, according to Mr. Kehl, is as warm and festive on the outside as she is on the inside.

Riverboat gambling has added a new dimension to the Quad-Cities, especially in terms of economic development, said Joe Taylor, acting president and chief executive officer and director of communications at the Quad City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said.

``Besides creating thousands of jobs, the casinos have given us the potential to market the area to visitors, especially those attending meetings and conventions,'' Mr. Taylor said. ``Convention delegates are always looking for things to do after their business is completed.''

The Quad-Cities also benefits from the money non-profit organizations distribute from the Iowa casinos, Mr. Taylor said. The Riverboat Development Authority, which is associated with The President, has funded many tourism-related projects, which helps the Visitors Bureau market the area, he said.

``Riverboat casinos helped shine the spotlight on the riverfront,'' Mr. Taylor said. ``They've become anchors for riverfront development and a catalyst for other development in the cities where they dock.''

-- By Carol Loretz (January 26, 1998)

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