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Bob Kehl, 78, Iowan received nation’s first riverboat gambling license

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Updated: August 6, 2013 6:39AM

DUBUQUE, Iowa — A former Dubuque cafe owner who was granted the nation’s first riverboat gambling license has died.

The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald reports that 78-year-old Bob Kehl died at home on Wednesday morning shortly after being released from a local hospital.

Family members told the newspaper that Mr. Kehl’s health had been failing for an extended period.

Mr. Kehl and his wife, Ruth, were restaurateurs and caterers who began operating riverboats in 1973. They made headlines in 1990 when they were granted the country’s first riverboat gambling license. They launched the Casino Belle, a 2,000-passenger boat from the port of Dubuque, a year later.

Mr. Kehl was also the founder and president of Kehl Riverboats, which built and renovated 13 floating casinos, and a founding board member of Iowa’s first land-based casino, the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.

To many in Dubuque, Mr. Kehl was seen as a visionary who viewed the Mississippi River as the centerpiece of Dubuque’s economic revival.

Dubuque historian Randy Lyon, who published Encyclopedia Dubuque, said that Dubuque’s gambling roots go back to the Kehl family.


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