Blue Horizon Casino Cruises, which operated out of the Port of Palm Beach, has suspended its operations in anticipation of the state allowing expanded gaming at venues such as the Palm Beach Kennel Club and the Seminole Indians’ casino next year.
The Blue Horizon is the sixth casino day cruise that has sailed from the port in recent years, but ceased to operate.
Robert Weisberg, managing director of PB Gaming, which operated the ship, said that because of the pending Seminole Compact with the state and legislation that will allow the expansion of slot machines into kennel club, it made no sense to continue operating the gambling cruises.
“It is like investing in a business that has no future,” Weisberg said.
Weisberg said the legislation is expected to be finalized this fall. Then the Seminoles will be allowed to offer craps and roulette, which were the only exclusive games the ship had.
“We have plans for the boat. We do not want to talk about it right now. Florida gaming is done, for the most part, for these kind of boats,” Weisberg said.
Weisberg said the company invested more than $9 million in the boat and the operation.
“We spent a lot of money here hoping the governor did not sign with the Seminoles,” Weisbertg said. “We basically broke even.”
Weisberg said he would rather have to tell the 100 employees they are losing their jobs now than continue until the end of the year and tell them at Christmas.
Every effort will be made to refund all advance reservations for groups and individuals, the company said.
The port’s executive director Manuel Almira said in a statement, “It is unfortunate to hear the announcement that Blue Horizon will cease operating from the Port of Palm Beach, We wish them well. The Port will review the status of mutual contractual obligations at the appropriate time.”
The ship, a 600-passenger gambling and day cruise to “nowhere,” launched July 17, 2015. In late July the ship went into dry dock to have its engines replaced, and start again Nov. 1.
The abrupt announcement followed a mass emailing Wednesday of the ship’s April schedule.
The previous two operators of the ship went bankrupt.
Port spokeswoman Tara Monks said negotiations to end the operating lease will not begin until at least next week.
Port officials have not yet had time to assess what the financial impact will be.
Under its contract with the port, PB Gaming must pay $730,000 a year in passenger fees, an estimated $80,000 in parking fees and $36,470 a year to lease 2,605 square feet of offices in the port administration building’s fourth floor.
After the failure of the previous operator, the port required PB Gaming to pay a $250,000 non-refundable cash deposit and another $150,000 in pre-passenger payments in 2015.