How the Diamond Lady Riverboat Casino Ended in the Rough

The Diamond Lady's first story was run recently. Don Sanders was its chief mate, and he aided in sailing it from Bettendorf, Iowa, to Biloxi, Mississippi, in August 1992 under Captain Ken Murphy.

The riverboat casino was the first legal betting vessel that started operating in Iowa's section of the Mississippi River in the 19th century. Unfortunately, it is now deep in the mud since getting stuck in Memphis Lake last year.

Sanders stated that he is annoyed whenever he looks at the Lady since she was betrayed and neglected. He accused its owners of letting her sink in the lake. Don Sanders took a photo of when he was the Players Riverboat Casino's captain at Metropolis, III.

The riverboat casino played a key role in growing modern betting in Mississippi and Iowa. The two states only allowed gambling on water three decades ago. Vanna White, "Wheel of Fortune" co-host christened the Lade in Bettendorf on April 1, 1991, and it sank in a Mississippi River freeze, where it was in a marina for 13 years.

The drought-receded river now exposes the riverboat's ravaged hull. Sanders, aged 81, is retired and lives close to the Ohio River in Aurora with his wife.

He stated that he is short of time and isn't disappointed because anyone can get the Diamond Lady afloat again and clean her. Yet, that might not happen soon.

The Biloxi Blues

Bernie Goldstein built the Diamond Lady and relocated her from Iowa after a year as the state's tax rates and regulations displeased him. Sanders still remembers Captain Ken's voice in the one-week downstream trip to the Gulf.

He was aboard the Diamond Lady in August 1992 when she pushed a ticket barge downstream toward Biloxi. Sanders praised the captain for his vast experience on the river and added that he got at least another ten offers after the trip.

The riverboat casino was tied to the Emerald Lady, her sister boat, after arriving at Biloxi and later to the ticket barge before docking. The conglomeration formed the branded Isle of Capri casino.

Sanders recalls that the ticket barge was between the two boats. Even so, Murphy lacked the necessary license for the boat to stay in Biloxi.

Instead, his license was for Mississippi and nearby tributaries, excluding the Mississippi Sound. So, he opted to open the Metropolis, III Players Riverboat Casino.

Sanders also lacked that license and had to enroll in a New Orleans school for it. By then, an unkept fish warehouse was being renovated to be the Isle of Capri's office. Sanders became a new Emerald Lady's captain after returning.

Every boat had four captains working in shifts, including when they were docked. Sanders revealed that Biloxi had a small pay, yet his young family lived in Natchez, Mississippi.

The Last Boat's Departure

Goldstein owned Casino America when he launched the Isle of Capri-Vicksburg northwest of Biloxi. He requested Sanders to sail the Lady there after planning to house all Biloxi operations in an $18 million barge that opened in 1994.

Sanders rejected the job offer and joined Captain Ken at the Players Riverboat Casino, which was near his home.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.