'Father of Mississippi Gaming' Richard J. Schilling, Jr. Dies at 62

Jan 30, 2010, 14:14 ET from Schilling Family

BOCA RATON, Fla., Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Richard J. Schilling, Jr., successful restaurant, night club, and casino owner considered the Father of Mississippi Gaming, died Wednesday at the age of 62 at his home in Boca Raton, Florida.

Mr. Schilling started in the restaurant and entertainment business when he was 13 years old and since owned some of the most successful and legendary entertainment venues in the country.  From redefining entertainment in the Midwest with the legendary Beverly Hills Supper Club outside of Cincinnati, to “Splash” the first casino in Tunica, Mississippi, his vision and drive were second to none.

Mr. Schilling began his career, at the early age of 13, working for Keys Brothers Concessions, in Devou Park.  At age 16, he began working at the Lookout House for his Father and Uncle.  Learning the business from the bottom up, he began in the dish room and worked his way up to the restaurant general manager.  Under his management the restaurant had grown from 6 dining rooms holding 1100 patrons to 14 dining rooms able to accommodate 2300 for a sit down meal.

In 1969 the Schilling family purchased another small vacant restaurant, in Southgate, Kentucky (adjacent to Cincinnati), their new venture called the “Beverly Hills Supper Club” opened in 1971.  The showroom became the entertainment mecca of the Midwest featuring legendary performers including Frank Sinatra, Eli Fitzgerald, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Righteous Brothers and Connie Stevens.

The night club held over 5500 patrons and was long recognized as, “Showplace of the Nation”.  In May 1977, the massive complex club was completely destroyed by fire.

The family took a year to reorganize after their tragic loss, and in May 1978 Mr. Schilling opened a new venture in Downtown Cincinnati called Januarys and Oodles.  

In 1981, completely from the proceeds of January’s and Oodles, Mr. Schilling, opened the First Riverboat Restaurant in Newport, Kentucky (Cincinnati).  With a tropical theme, “The Islands” quickly became the highest grossing restaurant in the United States.  This success prompted the building and subsequent opening of the adjoining “Splash” nightclub which opened a year later.

In 1986 The Islands and Splash were moved to Louisville, Kentucky as his first out of “Cincinnati Area” venture.  The business duplicated its success in Louisville, with crowds so large that the city was forced to take over crowd management for the facility.

In 1992, the Island and Splash sailed away for their most extravagant venture yet.  Docking in Tunica, Mississippi, 29 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, Mr. Schilling became the founding Father of the $3 Billion Mississippi gaming industry, the third largest gaming destination in the United States.  

In 2002 he was diagnosed with colon cancer.  With his “never let ‘em get you down” mentality,  he and his wife Linda designed, built and ran a new $75 Million Casino Resort named “Harlow’s” in Greenville, MS.   Mr. Schilling sold his controlling interest in “Harlow’s” early last year.

On Thursday, February 4, 2010, viewing will be from 10-11:30 a.m. followed by Mass at 11:30 at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1680 Dixie Highway Fort Wright, Kentucky.  At the conclusion of Mass the burial will occur at Cave Hill Cemetery, 701 Baxter Avenue Louisville, Kentucky at 3 p.m. that afternoon.

SOURCE Schilling Family