Home Broker's Best Emerald Queen Casino Paddlewheeler

Emerald Queen Casino Paddlewheeler

by Randy Woods

Northwest Yachtnet invites you aboard a truly unique new listing—the classic 300-foot-long paddlewheeler that once housed the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.

For the Broker’s Best section, we pride ourselves for covering a wide variety of used sail and powerboats available in the Pacific Northwest. This month, however, may be one of the first times we have featured one that is nearly 300 feet long, has more than 70,000 square feet of space on four decks, weighs 400 tons, and is big enough to comfortably accommodate 2,000 guests. Oh, and it’s also powered by a giant wooden stern wheel instead of a propeller.

Behold the Emerald Queen, the former floating gambling palace that had been moored at the Blair Waterway on the Tacoma waterfront for the last 25 years as part of the Emerald Queen Casino, owned by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

Built in 1995 by Louisiana-based Quality Shipyard and Kehl River Boats at a cost of $15 million, the steel Emerald Queen was designed to look like the classic paddlewheel riverboats that used to ply the waters of the Mississippi River in the 19th century. Balustraded exterior walkways and lush interior amenities evoke the buildings of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The grande dame made her way from Houma, Louisiana, to Tacoma in 1997, not under her own power but towed on a barge by the Northwest tugboat Drew Foss, on a month-long journey south across the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, and up the West Coast to Puget Sound.

But after its gamble paid off with many years in the casino business, the Puyallup Tribe knew when to hold ‘em, knew when to fold ‘em and retired the vessel as a casino in 2004. The ship is now moored next to Tacoma’s “Firecracker Alley” and is up for sale by the Tribe. The boat’s total interior space measures more than 70,000 square feet (23,400 square feet for the casino; 25,320 square feet for the lounge) and can be accessed by three gangways to the second deck and one gangway to the main deck.

The boat is equipped with two elevators: one 3,500-pound-capacity passenger elevator forward and a 10,000-pound-capacity freight elevator aft. The most striking interior feature, however, is the opulent forward grand staircase, which connects three decks inside an open atrium lit by a large hanging chandelier. 

The boat’s main deck features a covered walk around the perimeter, accessed by two forward gangways. Inside is the former gambling area, though all the gaming machines and tables have been removed. There are, however, five television screens, recessed chandeliers on the ceiling, meeting rooms at the aft end of the vessel, and men’s and women’s heads. The casino bar area includes a foot rail, a Hoshtzaki ice machine, three soda taps, two stainless steel ice bins, two double and two single stainless-steel sinks, three 2-door under-counter coolers, and liquor storage. It is one of three such bar areas located on each deck.

Located astern is the red paddlewheel structure, which rises as high as the second deck and can be hydraulically lifted and lowered into the water. The wheel is powered by two Cummins HTA-38 diesel engines, producing a combined total of 1,880 HP, a stately cruising speed of 8 knots, and a top speed of 10 knots. A 300-HP Thrustmaster hydraulic bow thruster also helps control the boat during mooring procedures. Because the Emerald Queen has been anchored in the same spot for a quarter-century, the engines have less than 200 hours of use. Despite their idleness, however, the engines have been lovingly maintained by the Tribe and remain in pristine condition.  

Exterior stairs at port and starboard, forward and aft, lead up to the second and third decks, both of which have covered walk-around exterior decking. Inside the second deck ,the former nightclub area of the casino space, is still equipped with seven TV sets and another fitted bar with the same equipment found on the main deck below, plus a master microwave oven and liquor storage. The deck also has a security monitor room with 18 video processors, three monitors, and two camera controls, and two 5-stall heads for men and women.

The top level includes a pilothouse, complete with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment, two forward searchlights, a wooden steering wheel, and a ship’s office. Aft of the pilothouse there are also two vertical engine funnels with crown-like, Creole-style ornamentation, giving the boat 55 feet of bridge clearance.    

Born on the bayou, this Cajun gem is a classic homage to the nation’s proud riverboating heritage, giving credence to any potential plans for a revival as a future clearwater palace—whether it’s anchored at port or just rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river.

Specs & Info:

LOA 292’ · Beam 60’ · Draft 7’
Tankage (Fuel/Fresh/Black)
14,000 gal. / 30,000 gal. / 32,000 gal.

Twin Cummins HTA-38 Diesels

Northwest Yachtnet
Seattle, WA
Matt Palmer

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1 comment

Craig T. Compton July 6, 2023 - 09:17

How much


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