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Harrah's Joliet Responds to Present, Prepares for Future

19 July 2000

Dockside gambling posed a special challenge to Harrah's riverboat casino in Joliet when it was approved last year, but the owners and operators of the property proved more than worthy to meet that challenge and, in doing so, chart the course for what promises to be a bright future.

Harrah's Joliet was the only Illinois riverboat casino destination that had a single entry and exit facility to service its two vessels. This meant that each vessel was required to leave the dock for every cruise to make room for its sister ship.

Once dockside gambling took effect in Illinois the morning of Saturday, June 26, 1999, officials at Harrah's Joliet had to respond to the problem of keeping both their boats open at the same time. Their initial solution was to situate the vessels side by side in the harbor, have guests use the boarding facility to enter the Southern Star II, then use a ramp on the other side of the ship as a means to access the Northern Star.

It was the best they could do under the circumstances, but it wasn't without hitches. The biggest problem was the fact that coast guard regulations limited the number of passengers aboard each boat to 900, 25 percent less than the capacity of 1,200. This in turn created some isolated instances of people waiting to get on board, especially during peak times.

Harrah's Joliet, meanwhile, was already addressing the issue and less than a month after the start of dockside gambling came up with what has proven to be a viable solution: A "transition barge" situated between its twin vessels.

"We have docked the Southern Star II and the Northern Star together in the harbor and built an enclosed, climate controlled 'transition barge' between them," said Caroline Qualls, marketing manager for Harrah's Joliet. "Our guests now use the boarding facility to enter the transition barge, then go to the left to board the Southern Star II or to their right to board the Northern Star. By making this adjustment our capacity is up to 1,200 on each boat, which has alleviated any problems which existed before."

Qualls also revealed an exciting Phase III plan for the site: Harrah's has plans to upgrade its Joliet property with a 40,000 square foot permanent barge to replace its two existing riverboat casinos. Although it is still in the design stages, the barge is slated to be in place toward the end of the year 2000.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp