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At Floating Casino: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

July 14, 1993

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) _ The Mississippi River rose, roiling storm clouds blackened the sky and Loesteen Jenkins fed quarters into slot machines on the floating Casino Queen.

″The way I look at it is, life goes on,″ said Jenkins, who won nearly $200. ″There’s always something going on somewhere. People are having funerals everyday. But life doesn’t stop.″

The 57-foot-tall riverboat gaming hall normally takes cruises from its mooring facing the St. Louis arch and skyline, but now the river is so high it can’t make it under a bridge. ″We’d go right through it,″ said Michael Gaughan, owner and operator.

Floodgates protecting a tunnel that served as the casino’s entrance had to be closed, but a makeshift walkway and ramp had a strong flow of customers Tuesday night. About 5,000 gamblers show up daily despite the flood, he said.

″It’s kind of like things got so bad that they’re just trying to have some fun,″ Gaughan said, and he saw nothing wrong with that, regardless of the trials of flood victims up- and downriver.

″Fifty-two thousand people went to the Cardinals’ game the other night. People are still going to movie shows, they’re going to bars and restaurants.″

Scott Nobbe, who farms in Waterloo, 20 miles south of here, took a break from the quarter and dollar slots to watch the swirling river from the observation deck. His trip to the riverboat was in part a reward.

″I’ve been helping people move livestock out of the bottom,″ he said, describing the effort to get about 200 hogs away from a levee. ″I don’t feel guilty.″

As coins rattled and dice rolled, Chris Kavadas said the casino was a place to unwind. His home is near a flooded part of St. Louis, and he has assisted lower-lying neighbors.

″We’ve already moved some people,″ he said. ″We’re going to help some more. Everybody at work talks about what they’re doing. People care.″

Even casinos care.

In a hard-hit area north of here, another riverboat, the Alton Belle, said it is donating a portion of its profits to flood relief. So far, it said, its fund exceeds $20,000. And despite sandbags in the parking lot, players keep coming.

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