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Grand Opening of the Casino Hotel on South Padre Island.

One of the first buildings constructed at Tarpon Beach in 1908, (Today’s Isla Blanca Park) the Casino Hotel (AKA the Gulf side Hotel) was only open for a short period before disaster struck.

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A hurricane coming ashore during the early summer of 1909, forced visitors to evacuate and seek shelter at the Quarantine Station which was located in the bay near the southern tip of Padre Island. Many fishing boats were capsized or cast ashore and one of the ferry boats was missing. Dozens of fishing shanties were demolished by the action of the waves.

Island

No lives were lost and all who wished to leave were brought to the boat docks in Port Isabel.

Another storm swept ashore August 26 and again a large group of tourists sought shelter in the quarantine station. At Tarpon Beach every building except the light house and the quarantine station were either heavily damaged or destroyed. Most of the destruction was caused by the high waves and a general inundation of the Island. The wind itself, which barely reached tropical storm status, caused little damage. Repairs took several months but by 1910 Tarpon Beach and the Casino Hotel were once again open to the public.

Over the next 15 years several violent Gulf storms damaged or destroyed much of Tarpon Beach including the Casino Hotel. During this period the only Island hotel consistently open was the Tarpon Beach Hotel, located bayside and built in 1908 by Jesus Vega of Brownsville.

In 1926, James A. Dickinson rebuilt the Casino complete with a water toboggan slide and two fast speedboats to transport passengers to and from the Island. A bus met every boat upon its arrival to take all passengers to the hotel. There was even a lifeguard stationed on the beach when people were in the water.

Business was brisk over the next few years and though the great depression cast a pall on most of the country, the Casino continued its operation.

But we who live on the Island know we are always just one hurricane away from utter destruction as illustrated by the following article published in the July 6, 1933 edition of the Brownsville Herald: “PORT ISABEL, 3:45 p.m. the afternoon the wind at Port Isabel was increasing slightly, and has changed a little toward the east. Otherwise the situation remained unchanged from this morning. Three people from the Padre Island casino were at the coast guard station on Padre Island, and the telephone line to the station has gone out.”

Several more hurricanes struck the Island during the summer-Fall of 1933 doing much damage to structures at Tarpon Beach. Though heavily damaged the Casino was repaired and back in business in time to host a gathering of the Port Isabel Rotary Club. In addition to a meal, the group of 25 Rotarians enjoyed watching a coast guard drill put on by the members of the station on Padre Island.”

In March of 1942, a pair of Memphis tourists visiting Brazos Island decided they’d like to have lunch at the Casino Hotel. Donning swim suits, the pair entered the water and swam the Brownsville ship channel. After a quick meal the two repeated their epic swim arriving at Brazos half an hour later.

In a January 14th, 1945 article Frank Dobie wrote: “A Gulf storm took the top story off the Padre Island Hotel. Winds have swept the sand out from under it. No deserted bunk-house ever looked more dilapidated; yet it has more ancient signs about “cover charges,” “cashier,” “family meals with all the trimmings,” “European plan,” “American plan,” “laundry,” etc. than the Waldorf-Astoria. You can sit in one of the two old rope-bottomed chairs on the wide front gallery and look over the Gulf, listen to the surf break, watch for a fishing sail and feel your consciousness absorbed into the eternity of the universe.”

The noiseless tooth of time continued her meal though and the old Casino faded into obscurity. Sometime in the early 1950s it was demolished and today there is no visible evidence of its existence on Padre Island.

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Texas casinos have been one of the major things to do for Texans for quite some time. Though there are only two genuine casinos in Texas offering gaming, there are numerous wagering choices within the state. Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, southwest of San Antonio, and the Texas Treasure Casino Boat near Redfish are the two most popular places for gambling in Texas. Beyond the two favored options lie a bounty of other choices for betting, including both live and simulcast horse racing and greyhound racing. Parimutuel wagers (meaning races are broadcast by television or radio and bets are divvied up according to the amount of winners’ total wagers) are a common form of betting at most of the wagering facilities.

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Kickapoo Lucky Eagle is a popular Texas casino and one of the hottest entertainment complexes on the Texas-Mexico border. Gaming, dining, and a host of exciting entertainment lies within. Bingo is one of the biggest draws. The Bingo Dome at Kickapoo features Sunday to Friday sessions beginning at 7 p.m. and two Saturday sessions with huge prize pay outs and ongoing promotions. The live poker room is a flurry of activity. Twelve poker tables dealing 7 Card Stud and Texas Hold ‘Em are featured every day. Tournaments and promotions are always on in the poker room at this Texas casino, which is open from Monday to Friday until 5 a.m. From penny slots to $25 games, 1,800 slot machines ring, flash, and light up the floor. A huge buffet, two sports bars, and a café nail down all dining needs and live music and other performances dot the events calendar.

Texas Treasure Casino Boat is the second premier option for gambling in Texas. It is the go-to for casinos in Texas offering gaming cruises and onboard dining with three distinct restaurants. The large cruise ship is packed with options for gambling in Texas. More than 23 table games are onboard, including Caribbean Stud, Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, blackjack, live poker, and roulette. More than 500 slot machines keep the floor action-packed while the bingo hall, with seating for 100, is another choice for welcoming Lady Luck at this Texas casino. Head to 229 Highway 361 South Port Aransas, one of the top vacation spots in Texas, for cruise departures leaving Tuesday through Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. Entry prices vary depending on the day of the week. Also notable is the cruise ship offers no accommodations. Nearby Port Aransas hotels are the only lodging available.

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Texas Map

Several other options are available for gambling in Texas. Only 25 minutes away from Austin in Manor, Texas, Manor Downs provides simulcast, parimutuel horse racing. During the spring there are live thoroughbred and quarter horse races. The private restaurant and bar complete the picture and offer a great alternative to traditional gambling in Texas.

Corpus Christi Dog Track is just as exciting as any Texas casino. Greyhound racing is top dog at the race track, but there are also simulcasts of other horse and greyhound races within the country. The grandstand surrounding the simulcast area is an air-conditioned seating area that is serviced by concession stands and hostesses. The clubhouse is another ideal spot to watch races and enjoy pub-style meals. Wagering is done by either electronic machines or by licensed tellers situated all over the track.

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In lieu of the limited choice of casinos in Texas there is also the Valley Race Park in Harlingen where live thoroughbred, greyhound, and simulcast races are all presented. Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, less than twenty miles from Fort Worth, is on par with Valley Race Park with simulcast racing seven days per week and live races from mid-September through mid-November. Combining all the options introduces a length list of options for gambling in Texas and the diversity of choice is can be a great activity in a state with so many things to do.