Blue Horizon suspends cruises

Posted at 1:59 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 09:27:24-04

It's a gamble the owners of Blue Horizon casino don't think is worth taking.

They announced the casino cruise will stop operating out of the Port of Palm Beach effective Wednesday.

Management says the casino boat can't compete with new gambling rules in Florida that make more games available on land.

A lot of people weren't surprised by the decision.

"There are so many places you can gamble on the land, that unless you take a cruise and they have gambling there, a ship that just does gambling isn't going to survive," explained Tica Richardson.

Robert Weisberg, with Blue Horizon, said the state of Florida has all but formally agreed to a new gambling deal, which allows land-based casinos to offer craps and roulette. This is something that only ships like Blue Horizon could do before the agreement.

Plus, the deal would allow the Palm Beach Kennel Club to have a system similar to slot machines, which is also something the casino boat offered.

"It's a dying era, I understand that. It's hard to compete with land-based stuff," explained former casino boat captain Mark Wilkerson. "When you're stuck [on a boat for] four hours, it's hard to do anything but sit there and wait for it to come back to the dock."

He said he's worked on casino boats for 12 years. He pointed out previous ones at this port, like Black Diamond and Island Breeze, had issues, making it hard on employees like him.

"I'm 50 years old and after nine months, or a year, I didn't have a job," he explained.

Blue Horizon sailed for about five months. Its first cruise was Oct. 30.  Weisberg said it was successful during that time period, the weekend cruises were booked solid.

But he anticipates the new gambling rules will take effect next year, making it impossible for his business model to work.

Engine trouble delayed that first cruise by about three months.

Weisberg said his group, PB Gaming, spent $9 million fixing the boat. During the three months it was docked, the company paid all of its employees about $1 million total.

Now, those 100 employees are looking for new jobs. Weisberg said he's offering them an opportunity on a new venture, but can't share those details.

If you booked a cruise on Blue Horizon, the company will contact you with information about getting a refund.

Below is the sign posted at the Port of Palm Beach on Wednesday