Former riverboat fetches $600,000 at auction

WOOD RIVER, Ill. (AP) — The former riverboat that once served as the Casino Queen along East St. Louis' Mississippi River banks is under new ownership after being sold at auction for $600,000.

A federal marshal who led the auction Friday took 14 bids from three people who vied for the White Star One before the vessel was bought by a Florida man who is a former shipyard owner and has riverfront properties in Kentucky, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) reported.

The auction lasted just five minutes and opened with a $200,000 bid.

Gerald Smallwood, who represented the Florida buyer, said it was not immediately clear what plans that man has for the barge, which has languished since the Casino Queen operation moved inland a few years ago.

Steve Parbs, who as one of the bidders owns the Industrial Trading Group of St. Louis, said after the auction he had planned to scrap the boat — something he had done previously with another one-time St. Louis riverfront gambling icon, the Admiral.

Parbs, whose company specializes in industrial demolition and the salvage of barges and ships, estimated that White Star One could be worth $1 million dismantled. The vessel last year was appraised at roughly $1.5 million.

The White Star, which has languished since 2008 at a family's shipyard, consists of a barge unit and a power unit where the engines sit. It stretches more than 400 feet and once was able to host up to 3,000 passengers.

In 1992, officials announced that the $13 million replica of a 19th-century side-wheeler riverboat was heading to East St. Louis to become Illinois' largest gambling boat. In 2007, regulations allowed gambling to move inland.

A federal judge still must sign off on Friday's sale and decide who gets paid what from the proceeds, with the shipyard having claimed it is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in mooring costs.


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