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State of Iowa Takes Big Riverboat Gamble

<i> Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports</i>

Riverboat gambling is back.

Beginning Monday, Nevada and New Jersey no longer will have a monopoly on casino gambling within the United States. Now, gamblers wishing to try their luck can also head for the Diamond Lady, the President or the Casino Belle--three Mississippi River boats aboard which the state of Iowa has declared casino gambling legal.

The new $10-million Diamond Lady--complete with stern paddle wheel, calliope and plush, plum-colored Victorian interiors--leaves Bettendorf, Iowa, on Monday, carrying 45 tons of coins and 60 tons of slot machines.

Based in neighboring Davenport, Iowa, the 3,000-passenger President features 680 slot machines, 27 blackjack tables, three craps tables, three roulette wheels and a wheel of fortune.

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Upriver in Dubuque, Iowa, is the Casino Belle, a craft as long as a football field and crammed with gaming equipment and a staff of 250.

Iowa’s venture is being watched by other states. Illinois has approved a similar project, and at least four gambling boats will be operating on the Illinois River later this year.

Gambling boat proposals are also on the table in Indiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Missouri and Pennsylvania, while Wisconsin lawmakers are eyeing Lake Superior and Lake Michigan with similar ideas in mind.

Travel Quiz: Three of the 50 states in the union have no natural boundaries. What are they? (Answer below.)

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More Gambling: There are some restrictions on Iowa’s experiment with riverboat gambling. For instance, gamblers can take only $200 each on a voyage, and there is a $5 limit on bets. Players put down their money when they get on board and are given metal tokens in exchange.

But the eager or addicted can sign on for voyage after voyage--as many as four in any given day, each lasting about 2 1/2 hours and each with a new $200 allotment.

And, as operators are quick to point out, there is no limit on winning.

All three boats, which are independently owned and operated, report heavy bookings well into the summer. When winter sets in, the boats will be allowed to operate at dockside, without risking ice and wind.

Washington Update: The White House once again is open to public tours, and tours of the Pentagon will resume Monday. Both tours were canceled temporarily for security reasons during the Persian Gulf War.

White House tours can be taken Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Free tour tickets are distributed by the National Park Service from a kiosk on the Ellipse grounds beginning at 8 a.m. each day.

Pentagon tours are offered Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Rewarding Flights: Travelers who are bumped from a flight in Europe will soon find themselves richer because of the experience.

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Starting April 8, passengers denied boarding on scheduled flights at European Community airports will be entitled to compensation from the airline for their inconvenience, according to the Assn. of European Airlines.

The inconvenienced passenger also will have the choice of a refund or being rerouted to his or her destination, the air association announced in a statement.

Passengers flying less than 2,200 miles will be paid for their inconvenience in European Currency Units, or ecus, equivalent to about $95 for waiting less than two hours and $190 for waiting more than two hours, the association said.

Passengers flying more than 2,200 miles will be paid the equivalent of $190 if they are forced to wait less than four hours and $380 for waiting more than four hours, it said.

South Pacific Plan: The Solomon Islands has announced a 10-year tourism development plan that government officials hope will bring a sevenfold increase in the number of visitors to the South Pacific nation, and significantly boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

The plan calls for extensive promotion of the Solomon Islands as a tourist destination, better international air access, upgrading of airports, and the development of resorts of international standard and small-scale, tourist-related businesses by Solomon Islanders.

Implementation of the plan is expected to cost $62 million, with the funds being provided by both the public and private sectors.

Noteworthy in Naples: Purse-snatching has long been one of the drawbacks of visiting Naples, Italy, but Italian police say tighter security measures instituted in the past year are taking effect.

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A total of 200 purse-snatchings were reported in the first three months of 1991, down from 800 in the same period last year, police say.

Rain Insurance: Visitors staying at Sands Oceanfront Resorts in Myrtle Beach, S.C., may soon begin hoping that it rains at least some during their visit. If it does, they stand a good chance of getting some of their money back under rain insurance policies.

The rain-insurance policies, underwritten by Lloyd’s of London, cost $5 for every $100 of coverage, and the maximum a guest can collect is $500 per stay. Rates at the resort average about $70 to $100 a day.

Rainfall will be determined by a rain gauge operated by Coastal Carolina College. If at least 0.1 inches of rain an hour is recorded at least four times between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., covered guests receive a refund.

There is a catch, of course. Visitors cannot simply show up, look at the sky and ask for coverage. Rain insurance policies must be bought at least two weeks prior to check-in.

Quiz Answer: Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. None of the three has boundaries formed by rivers, mountain ranges or coastlines.


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