Multiple factors appear to be to blame for the demise of the South Florida floating casinos. Like the rest of the country, the burden of high fuel costs has reduced the number of passengers that are boarding, whilst at the same time increasing the running costs of the boats that are normally berthed in the South Florida area.
The plight of Port Everglades only remaining gaming-boat, SeaEscape Entertainment is currently causing concern, with up to one hundred and seventy crew members being detained on the boat, in port. Many of these crew members have not been paid in two to six months and have now had their passports and visas taken in an effort to stop them disembarking the boats. There are calls to sell the boat for whatever can be raised in an effort to pay staff and debtors but the pessimistic view is that it’s value is currently very low.
This is symptomatic of the current problems for the company, who recently informed Broward County that they would be ending operations from the port on Sunday the 17th of August after twenty one years there. The future of the boat was unknown, although rumors had it sailing to Port Canaveral to take on a new role as a short cruise ship. This was before federal agencies impounded it during debt settlement talks with the owners.
SeaEscape are not alone; a recent attempted auction on the Palm Beach Princess fell through, and will be attempted a second time at the end of this month. With both gaming-boats gone and with Horizon’s Edge Casino Cruises and Aquasino ending business in the area in recent months , there would only be SunCruz Casinos in Key Largo remaining in South Florida.
Will this cut competition enough to save this final boat? Its unlikely because, of increasing costs and an increase in competition from land based establishments. Other businesses, such as the Seminoles Broward county racetracks have expanded into what was previously the territory of the gaming-boats by the addition of gaming and slots, so reducing the need for gaming in out of state waters. Floating casinos were always at a disadvantage because of their own limitations, namely the fact that if you lose all your money you are stuck on the boat till it docks, but if you are having a good day then you might be forced to stop playing sooner than you would have liked because the boat reached state waters.
SeaEscape Entertainment, Horizon’s Edge and Aquasino are all now facing litigation for varying reasons. SeaEscape faces charges of not paying staff, Aquasino face charges for using staff tips to pay management, whilst Horizon’s Edge must answer calls that they did not give the staff the required sixty days notice before termination of employment.
The only glimmer of hope is for the Palm Beach Princess, who have potentially interested buyers who would aim to maintain operations in the area. After a drastic downturn in the gaming-boat business in the area, it would be the one remaining bright spark.