COUNCIL BLUFFS — Linda King has worked on Harrah's riverboat for 17 years, doing such jobs as dealing cards for Mississippi Stud poker games.
But she's not sentimental about plans to scrap the Kanesville Queen riverboat.
She said she's looking forward to moving off the boat and onto dry land as Harrah's moves its gambling space ashore.
Much like her bosses, she will tell you that it will be better for the casino's customers.
The gambling space in the former convention center will be right next to the entrance, not down a 300-foot enclosed ramp to a riverboat.
“It'll be so much more convenient for a lot of people,” said King, 64, one of 44 Harrah's employees who have worked on the boat since it opened in 1996. “They won't have to go down the long hallway. … Everything is going to be cozy and brand new.”
The last slot will be pulled on the Queen in the early-morning hours of June 3. At 4 a.m. that day, the casino there will close for good. A grand reopening of the casino in the convention center space will be June 8.
Harrah's showed off its new gambling space Wednesday.
It's still a work in progress, with long rolls of carpet yet to be laid, wiring hanging from the ceilings and only a few slot machines in place.
But Harrah's is promising that the room will have a more modern feel than the aging boat, with Irish-made purple, teal and aqua carpeting, a “state-of-the-art” ventilation system that will make the gambling floor less smoky and windows to give it ambient lighting — something many casinos don't have, said Bo Guidry, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Council Bluffs.
It also will be convenient for customers, some of whom are senior citizens.
“The entrance we are standing in is only 30 short paces from the valet entrance,” Guidry said during a tour of the future gambling room.
The casino will have 25,000 square feet of gambling space and about 600 slot machines.
Harrah's will start shutting down its riverboat casino this month.
The top level will close next week, the bottom level will close May 28 and the middle level will shut down June 3.
A 2007 Iowa law allows casino operators to move their operations completely ashore. The Harrah's riverboat began operations in 1996 as Harveys. It was acquired by Harrah's in 2001.
Ameristar in Council Bluffs looked at moving ashore in 2007 but canceled its plans when the economy tanked, and it focused instead on improving existing facilities. It has no plans to abandon its riverboat, named Ameristar II, said Ameristar spokeswoman Christie Scott.
“Our plans are to move forward, business as usual,” she said Wednesday.
The Kanesville Queen, a fixture on the Missouri River for more than 17 years, will be scrapped. Guidry said the boat could be moved elsewhere to be dismantled, or the work could occur at Harrah's.
“There is not a market out there for a three-level floating casino,” he said. But, “there is a lot of metal and copper out there on that boat.”
Three companies are interested in the job, but no deal has been reached.
Guidry said the casino began thinking about ditching the boat when Iowa legislators passed the 2007 law — it costs up to $400,000 per year simply to dredge around the boat. Casino officials have estimated that the expenses associated with the Bluffs riverboat cost the company about $2 million annually.
But Harrah's did not have a location for its convention business off-site until Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns Harrah's and Horseshoe Casinos, took over management of the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs in 2012.
Guidry said all but two convention center events, which include weddings, were moved to the Mid-America Center after the move was announced.
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