Former Casino Ship Sunk in Atlantic Ocean, Vessel Becomes Part of Artificial Reef

A vessel formerly used as a casino ship with slot machines and table games now calls the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean home.

The Texas Star sinks towards Redbird Reef in the Atlantic Ocean on June 29. The boat was for many years used to run gambling excursions off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. (Image: DNREC)

Delaware’s 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. During its 45-year history, the vessel was used first as a floating casino and more recently for commercial scalloping.

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

The Redbird Reef is primarily composed of retired New York City “Redbird” subway cars. The manmade 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 separate reef sites in the Delaware Bay and along the Atlantic Coast, we continue to enhance and expand the recreational fishing and diving experience in Delaware,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “When we sank Twin Capes four years ago as a centerpiece of Delaware’s artificial reef system, it was unmatched, providing fish habitat and a spectacular dive with its five decks for underwater exploration.

“Now anglers, the fish they are pursuing, and divers all will have another new destination,” Garvin added.

Casino Sails Into Retirement

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 allocated to the reef.

The Texas Star docked and sailed from Freeport, Texas, during its run as a floating casino. The daily gambling excursions allowed passengers to test their luck once the vessel floated into international waters and Texas’ prohibition on commercial casino gambling no longer applied.

According to ship records, the Texas Star opened in 1977 as the Europa Star and operated as a gaming vessel for 28 years. The casino changed ownership three times and subsequently underwent three re-brandings.

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

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

Maritime Laws

The Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains that admiralty law, or maritime law, is the body of law that governs navigation and shipping. When it comes to gambling at sea, maritime law saws that once a boat ventures at least 12 nautical miles offshore from the United States, the boat’s owner is free to determine if gambling is permitted.

The Texas Star only turned on its onboard slots and put cards in the air for table games once the vessel moved 12 miles offshore from Freeport. International gaming is loosely regulated by the International Council of Cruise Lines. But casino cruises typically come with tight slots.

“The casino ship knows you’re a one-timer on a holiday and that your pockets are full of cash. On the open water, cruise ships have no competition, just a confined audience,” gaming expert Mark Pilarski explained to in 2019.

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