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All bets are off

Mark Magoon

The Daily Iowan

September 1, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Daily Iowan, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Daily Iowan.]

The last thing college students need is another place to empty their already-light wallets.

So Thursday's grand opening of the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort could spell doom - and goodbye to rent checks - for UI gamblers vulnerable to the lure of the complex, which rests roughly 15 miles from the Pentacrest.

The casino's bright lights and intricately decorated interior, combined with 40 table games and 1,175 slot machines, promises to be a new hot spot for prespective Hawkeye gamblers.

"I used to go to the casino once a month," said Jacob Struve, a UI senior who complained about the long trek he once had to make to roll the dice. "But with the new Riverside Casino opening up, it could be more than once a week at least."

Struve, a self-described big-time poker player, said he's won as much as $3,000 testing his hand at the game but has never lost more than $150 in any one sitting.

"I know when to cut myself off," he said.

Many gamblers don't possess such self-control, though, which raises concerns with gambling becoming more accessible to UI students. Roughly 4.2 million Americans are addicted to gambling, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

But not all students are big-time bettors, potential addicts, or even gamblers - of any sort.

Though news of the casino created a buzz throughout much of the campus, UI junior Charles Schmidt said he hadn't heard a thing.

"I had no idea there was a casino going up," he said, adding that he wasn't a big gambler and hadn't ever stepped inside a gambling facility. "I'd go if my friends were going, play a few slots, and have some drinks, but I won't be at the craps table betting it all on red, any time soon."

Casino executives are doing their best to market their product to UI students, but they say they've been careful to only focus on those 21 and up. Cheryl Good, the casino's director of marketing, was thrilled at the possibility of UI student traffic.

"We're happy that students will grace our floor," she said.

"But only if they're of age, of course."

When the Riverside Casino doors opened to the public - high rollers and other suits were let in earlier - Thursday at 9 p.m., some UI students were waiting for a chance to test their luck. UI graduate student Corey King had planned on being there for the casino's opening night.

"I can't wait to get there," the M.B.A. student said, while joking, "I hope I can use my statistic skills to my advantage at the craps table."

King added that he and his friends had been keeping up on the casino's status and were excited at the chance to gamble at a location so close to Iowa City.