Casino cruises may set sail again at the Port of Palm Beach

— Gambling cruises could return to the Port of Palm Beach in March after a two-year hiatus.

Port commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on an agreement with Black Diamond Casino Inc. of Jupiter to sail twice a day. Port Commission Chairman Wayne Richards said he expects the five-member board to approve the 10-year agreement.

Black Diamond Casino last month bought a 160-foot ship once used by SunCruz Casinos. The vessel is being refurbished and should be ready to sail in two months, said Black Diamond President Jonathan Greene.

The ship's casino will offer slots, roulette, craps, blackjack, poker and a sports book. The Black Diamond will be the first casino ship to sail from the Port of Palm Beach since the Palm Beach Princess stopped operating in early 2010.

Unlike the Palm Beach Princess, the Black Diamond will be an American-flagged vessel and will hire local employees, Greene said. The Palm Beach Princess employed foreign workers who lived aboard the 420-foot ship.

Black Diamond Casino plans to hire 150 employees for positions such as dealer, cook and waiter.

The Black Diamond will hold 550 passengers. Greene plans to serve a sit-down dinner and to sell tickets only to passengers 21 and older. Greene said he's unsure how much he'll charge for tickets.

Black Diamond Casino is investing "between $3 million and $4 million" to begin operating, Greene said. The port expects the ship to generate revenue of $900,000 to $1 million a year.

"The addition of this vessel would significantly, positively impact our financials," Richards said.

The last two gambling ships that sailed from the Port of Palm Beach — the Palm Beach Princess and the Big Easy — stopped operating because of financial problems. Greene said those large ships were hurt by high operating costs that won't hamper his smaller vessel.


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