New Casino Boat Could Launch This Weekend - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/05/05

New Casino Boat Could Launch This Weekend

Others have tried and gone belly up. Now, a new casino boat is going to test Savannah's waters. After weeks of delays, Diamond Casino plans on setting sail this weekend, but the company has lots of work to do before it can hoist the anchor.

Operations manager Greg Sicilia says the signs say it all: "It's like Vegas in Savannah."

"We run it just like a Vegas casino," he said.

Sicilia took us inside the casino cruise liner, the Midnight Gambler 2. He says they have all the games gamblers love. The boat fits anywhere from 450 to 500 people, and Sicilia claims the seven-year-old vessel is in tip-top shape.

"The integrity is absolutely flawless," he said.

The outside is a different story. The boat was brought in from Long Island, New York, and Sicilia admits the exterior is in rough shape, but they are working on it.

"Cleanup, painting, touch-up painting, all those things," he said. "We got people working round the clock right now."

Beside painting and cleaning, the big deal is getting Coast Guard approval, which could happen tomorrow. That seal of approval could make or break this operation.

"Can't sail without their COI [certificate of inspection]," Sicilia said.

The gambling cruise will employ more than 80 people, including casino manager Jeff Embry. He left another casino boat operation after eight years and put all his chips on Diamond Casino's success.

"If I thought it would be a gamble, I wouldn't have come here," he said. "I think this will be a solid operation."

"I think we will do real well here and become a real good part of the community," said Sicilia.

The Midnight Gambler could be sailing the high seas by the weekend. Sicilia is betting on a successful debut.

"We are going to brighten it up, make it look good," he said. "We want it to look as good as Savannah does. Savannah deserves it."

The Coast Guard is scheduled to conduct safety drills and inspections tomorrow. If all goes according to plan, a special VIP party on Friday will serve as the kick-off, with the boat opening to the public on Saturday night.

The Midnight Gambler will run twice daily, at 11am and 7pm, from its dock at William's Seafood on Wilmington Island.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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