Riverboat Casinos

Riverboats to Bits – The Confluence of Riverboat Gambling and Online Casinos

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nowhere is this truer than in the world of gambling. In the 1800s, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers were the interstate highways of the time. Roads were broken, dusty trails cut into the wilderness, and moving goods by land was extraordinarily expensive so the majority of shipping was conducted on the navigable waterways. Thousands of dollars traveled up and down the rivers of the Old West and the gamblers of the era followed the money. Captain F. Marryat wrote in 1839 that the riverboats were “infested” with professional card players. Today, the Internet is the hub of commercial activity. More funds are transferred online every day, and once again the professional gamblers are drawn to the center of trade.

While it may seem at first glance that the riverboats of the 1800s and the modern Internet could hardly be more different, it is surprising how many of the advantages of the riverboat have been passed on to the Internet for online casino gambing. Many of the same features that made riverboat gambling a success have contributed to the success of online casinos.

Most riverboats were not primarily designed as floating casinos but were intended to carry freight and passengers. Card games and other gambling opportunities were informal affairs conducted by the passengers; a gambler might end up playing with almost anyone. For example, in 1832 a young man found himself playing against James Bowie, the future hero of the Alamo (Bowie caught another player cheating). In a similar way, the online casinos of today are attractive because of their informal nature. Players can make money from the comfort of their own home, wearing pajamas rather than a tuxedo. Players can come and go as they wish, and amateurs often find themselves up against professionals or celebrity players.

Additionally, riverboats offered the luxury of anonymity. Gamblers could board at any one of a hundred ports along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, play their trade, and depart without so much as giving a name. Today, it is difficult to imagine a more anonymous place than the Internet. Many amateur gamblers begin playing online precisely because of this feature where they can play games like Monopoly slots from their own house. While many do not feel comfortable entering a casino (or may not live near one), anyone can access an online casino from anywhere in the world, and be anybody they choose to be online.

Finally, many gamblers used the riverboats because gambling on dry land was illegal. In 1835, five gamblers were hanged in Mississippi (cheating possibly played a role as well). Similarly, the online casinos are often based in countries with lax gaming laws, even though they are available everywhere in the world. Though several countries, including the United States, have tried to restrict online gaming, the multinational aspect of the business makes enforcement a serious problem.

In fact, about the only difference between the old riverboat gambling and modern online casinos is the decreased likelihood of drowning while gaming. Maybe some things do change.

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