Casino boats bring economic boost to Little River

LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) – The Little River Casino Boats are an attraction for gamblers, but they put more money in your pockets than you might expect.

We know these slot machines at the Sun Cruz and Big M Casinos take in money and pay back money, but what about the Little River Casino Boats impact on the economy?

That's what WMBF News Anchor Michael Maely set out to find when he boarded the boats.

If you're feeling lucky, the Little River Casino Boats might have your number. There are two ships which typically head out five or six days a week – The Big M Casino and Sun Cruz.

Michael Maely stepped onboard on a day high winds prevented the ship from ever leaving the dock, so Little River Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center Executive Director Jennifer Walters joined us for a tour of the docked vessels, which both offer your usual fair of slots, table games, roulette and beyond.

Its also a good spot to soak in the sun and live entertainment when weather permits.

"From a tourist perspective, they draw tourists that may not otherwise come to Little River," comments Jennifer Walters. "And we know that once they see this beautiful waterfront and waterway, that they'll come back another day and dine, shop and support our local businesses."

Ms. Walters adds that there's proof gamblers are spreading their money around too.

"We have couponing that we provide the casino boats, that incorporate other businesses in the area so when they get their coupon book and redeemed at other businesses, it's a way for us to track that they do come back and they do visit," Walters explains.

When the nearly 215,000 passengers visit the boats each year they pay a seven dollar admission fee, Horry County officials say. That admission fee brought in about $1.5 million dollars to Horry County in 2011.

"Little River is unincorporated, so there is no municipality here in LIttle River…so Horry County provides us services such us law enforcement, fire EMT. The passenger fees collected from the casino boats, support these services that we rely on," Walters details.

The passenger tax is not the only economic boosts these casino boats provide. They also employee around 310 people.

"There's all kinds, other than dealers and food service and boat maintenance as well," Walters says.

Unlike most summer tourism jobs the employees who work on these gaming machines, typically work year round and the casino owners say some of their busiest months, are in the off-season.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

Captain Smiley Fishing Charter –

Captain Juel's Hurricane Restaurant –