Ship boat

A former casino ship sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, the ship becomes part of the reef

Posted: July 5, 2022, 5:32 a.m.

Last update: July 5, 2022, 6:31 a.m.

A ship once used as a casino ship with slot machines and table games now inhabits the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

casino ship sank Texas Star Redbird Reef Cruise
The Texas Star sank toward Redbird Reef in the Atlantic Ocean on June 29. The boat was for many years used to organize game tours off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. (Image: DNREC)

The Delaware Department of National Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) last week oversaw the sinking of the Texas Star, a 180-foot-long boat built in 1977. Over its 45-year history, the ship has d was first used as a floating casino, and more recently for commercial scalloping.

The Texas Star is now part of Delaware’s Redbird Reef, a man-made underwater structure designed to promote marine life. The ship was sunk 86 feet deep about 16.5 miles off the Delaware coast.

The Redbird Reef is mostly made up of retired New York “Redbird” subway cars. The artificial reef currently covers 1.3 square miles of the ocean floor.

With today’s sinking of the Texas Star on Redbird Reef, one of 14 distinct reef sites in Delaware Bay and along the Atlantic Coast, we continue to improve and expand the experience of recreational fishing and diving in Delaware”, said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “When we sank Twin Capes four years ago as the centerpiece of Delaware’s artificial reef system, it was second to none, providing fish habitat and spectacular diving with its five decks for underwater exploration.

“Now the anglers, the fish they’re chasing, and the divers will all have another new destination,” Garvin added.

Casino retires

The Texas Star joins many other former commercial fishing vessels and 714 subway cars in calling the Redbird Reef home. But the Texas Star is believed to be the first ship that was once used for offshore casino gambling to be assigned to the reef.

The Texas Star docked and sailed from Freeport, Texas during her run as a floating casino. Daily gambling excursions allowed passengers to try their luck once the ship floated in international waters and Texas’ ban on commercial casino gambling no longer applied.

The Texas Star opened in 1977 as the Europa Star and operated as a gambling ship for 28 years, according to ship records. The casino has changed owners three times and then underwent three brand changes.

After operating as Europa Star until July 2001, the casino ship was Stardancer V until 2003, then Millionaire’s Casino until late 2004, and finally Texas Star Casino until May 2005.

After ceasing gambling operations, the boat retained its Texas Star name, but dropped “Casino” as it transitioned to scalloping.

maritime laws

The Institute for Legal Information at Cornell Law School explains that admiralty law, or maritime law, is the body of law that governs navigation and shipping. With respect to gambling at sea, maritime law states that once a boat ventures at least 12 nautical miles off the coast of the United States, the owner of the boat is free to determine whether the game is authorized.

The Texas Star only turned on its onboard slot machines and put up the cards for table games once the ship had moved 12 miles off Freeport. International gambling is loosely regulated by the Cruise Lines International Council. But casino cruises usually come with tight time slots.

“The casino ship knows you’re a casual on vacation and your pockets are full of money. In open water, cruise ships have no competition, just a confined audience,” the online expert explained. Mark Pilarski games at Casino.org in 2019.