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 Kehl's health had been failing for an extended period.
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.
Robert Kehl is shown here in 1989, 12 years after he launched the Spirit of Dubuque and a year before he was granted the nation’s first riverboat.
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, Kehl was seen as a visionary who viewed the Mississippi River as the centerpiece of Dubuque's economic revival.