LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - Little River is once again home to two working casino boats.
The Aquasino boat, which docks just down the way from The Big M casino boat, has been accepting customers for about a week.
The Aquasino replaced the Sun Cruz casino boat after it declared bankruptcy in December and closed.
Friday there were customers from several areas of Horry County and other customers who drove from hours away.
Rob Ristagno was just one of the customers who said he is glad to have another casino boat back in business in Little River.
"[I'm going to] try to win a little money, a little relaxing, have some fun," Ristagno said.
Nancy Prather came from Holly Ridge, North Carolina to check out the new boat. She said she visited the Sun Cruz in the past, and came to see the Aquasino as soon as she could.
"I wanted to come see the new boat because we've been trying to come, but it hasn't been here," Prather explained. "So we came back to have a good time today."
One of the owners of the Aquasino, Robert Weisberg, said the boat did a soft opening last Friday and more than 100 customers showed up within an hour.
"We've had thousands of people come to our dock and board our boat in the first week we've been in business, without any advertising, with just a little bit of radio," Weisberg said. "I mean it's just been amazing the response that we've gotten."
Having the boat come to Little River is also good for the employees. Many of them lost their jobs when Sun Cruz closed.
Ray Silva was one of those employees. He is now the slot manager for Aquasino, the same job he had with Sun Cruz.
"I owned a home down in Cherry Grove. I subsequently had to sell that," Silva said about losing his job. "It's nice to have a steady income back again, definitely."
Silva and the other employees said they have been a bit surprised by how eager customers have been to see the Aquasino.
Weisberg expects that excitement to continue and he said he and the other owners hope to make the boat a true destination for the area.
"Not only did [the Grand Strand] need the jobs we brought it, but it needs new events and new excitement," Weisberg explained. "So when we start hitting the season in a couple of weeks, after Memorial Day, I think it's going to be a real plus for the community."
Customers said they believe the both casino boats are an asset to Little River. They said the ships aren't the only place they spend their money.
"One thing it's worth too is we fill up with gas here," Prather said. "It's cheaper than in our area."
Ristagno agreed. He was making his second trip in a week from Longs to the Aquasino. He said many customers contribute to the Little River economy by patronizing businesses other than the casino boats.
"It should help the restaurants and the gas stations and the grocery stores," Ristagno said. "On the way in you might grab something or you might get dinner on your way out. If you go on an evening cruise you might grab something before you go."
Silva estimated there were about 160 people on the daytime casino cruise Friday.