Regency Cruises (1984-1995): a brief history of ships and chips (2 Viewers)

PocketAces

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Disclaimer: what follows here is the result of a few weeks worth of research into the history of the company, is gathered from information sourced from the ChipGuide and the Chipboard archives, as well as discussions with credible sources with extensive knowledge of Florida and Cruise gaming tokens, and/or with access to information directly sourced from the manufacturers, and most importantly, a discussion I have had with an employee who worked in one of their casinos. But there is only so much you can put together almost 30yrs after the company filed for Chapter 11. Consider this investigative work with imperfect information. I do not claim to have all the facts, and I welcome any information you might have that would shed light on the topic of their chips. I’ll do my best to credit all sources of information and images. I hope you enjoy the read.​

I will start with a brief history of the company. I think it is an important starting point because the timeline of all the changes the company went though from The Regent Sea first season, to the merger with Rainbow Cruises, ending up in bankruptcy, helps us understand when certain chips were ordered and/or used. This informaton has been sourced from Wikipedia, specialsed blogs (octopus cruises, cruiseindustrynews.com), local and financial press, most of them will be referenced at the bottom of this post.
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The Rise and Fall of Regency Cruises

Regency Cruises was founded in 1984 by William Schanz and Anastasios Kyriakides, initially offering a premium cruise experience on the Regent Sea, a ship built in 1957 by Ansaldo in Genoa, Italy. Regency Cruises was the operating entity, while the ship was owned by the Lelakis Group, a partnership that would be strengthened over time and result in a full takeover of the group by Lelakis. The Regent Star and Regent Sun were added to the fleet in the late 1980s.

In May 1993, after rejecting an offer from a buyout firm, Regency Cruises was acquired by Rainbow Cruises, a privately owned entity controlled by Antonios Lelakis. The deal was partly financed with $15mm bank debt, and the combined entity would retain the name « Regency Holdings », with its ships sailing under the Regency Cruises brand. The company expanded into a middle-price (value) offering and its ships cruised to ports of call in Alaska, Hawaï, Canada, the Caribbeans, South America and the Mediterranean.

Over the years, the competitive landscape had changed and Regency Cruises was under pressure: competitors were building ever bigger and more modern boats giving them scale to offer a cheaper service, generated more revenues from entertainment (casinos in particular, and according to an article from the Washington Post, Regency underperformed peers in that segment), and new safety regulations which forced cruises to update their ships to higher standards. Unfortunately, Regency Cruises operated comparatively small and old ships.

In 1994, the company attempted and failed to raise $40mm through a public equity offering. The new money would have been used acquire additional ships, refinance debt and finance its working capital according to filings seen by the New York Times. A year later, in October 1995, as it was running out of cash and, as it was later claimed, under the burden of an expensive refurb of the Regent Jewel (advertised as Regent Calypso), it filed for bankruptcy protection. At its height, it’s fleet counted 6 active ships, and, according to securities filing from its failed IPO of September 1994, it was the 8th largest cruise operator in North America based on passenger capacity.

The last few weeks of its existence were chaotic, according to the blog "Octopus Cruises". It was reported that canal & port fees as well a staff salaries and suppliers weren’t paid so fixtures and property had to be sold for cash or offered as collateral, and the ships equipment was falling appart. The Regent Spirit was eventually seized in Nice (France), the Regent Rainbow seized in Florida only hours before departure, while the Regent Isle cruises calendar entirely cancelled a week before its maiden voyage.
By the end of March 1996, approximately 10,000 customers had filed a claim with the bankruptcy court looking for compensation for their canceled holidays (out of the 20,000 estimated potential claims). But the liquidation process lasted a lot longer. The Regent Sky, ordered in 1989 and never completed, failed to sell in bankruptcy court and subsequent auctions, until it was sold for scrapping in July 2011. At the time it held the record of the longest-lived passenger liner that was never completed.

28 years after the company filed for bankruptcy, and despite suffering an abrupt and painful end to their operations, staff and customers alike are still sharing glowing reviews and fond memories of their time on the Regency Cruises ships. Some of the information that follows is sourced directly from them.​

Fleet and chips

The information that follows has been sourced from Wikipedia, the ChipGuide and a discussion I have had with an employee who worked in one of their casinos in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

While looking for old pictures of their casinos (with the hope of finding pictures of chips in play) on the Regent Sun Facebook page, I stumbled upon a picture of a safe that contained racks of chips and coins. The person who posted the picture placed that safe on the Regent Sea in the late 80’s. The chips looked familiar, I had to reach out.
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According to this person, who worked on the Regent Sea, the chips we know as « Atlantic Maritime » or « Flag », would have been used on all Regency Cruises line ships for the period that a company called 'Greater Atlantic Martime' had the Casino concession on board those ships. That company was previously known as 'Atlantic Associates', and its business model was simple. It would provide a Cruise line with staff and casino equipment, effectively operating and managing the casino, and capturing its revenues for a fee. They used similar arrangements for catering, spa and other entertainment services. According to this employee, Atlantic Maritime operated on over 100 ships at its peak, but as Cruise lines started to look to capture larger revenues from onboard entertainment, they looked at doing more of that operational stuff themselves. That involved hiring their own casino floor employees and, more importantly for us, ordering their own chips.

For Regency Cruises, I believe that transition happened (or at least started) between 1992 and 1993, as the circulation of Regency Cruises branded chips appears to coincide with the operation of two new ships around that time, the Regent Spirit and the Regent Rainbow.
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According to the ChipGuide - and subsequently confirmed by David Spragg at CPC, the Regent Spirit used chips on the A-mold and HHR (primary v secondary?) from November 1992, using the distinctive Regency Cruise logo on their chips as well having the boat name printed on the inlay. Really cool chips. The Regent Spirit sailed for Regency Cruises between 1992 and 1995.
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The Regent Rainbow, owned by Lelakis and already operated by Regency Cruises from 1992 (before the FleetCo and the OpCo merged in 1993) until 1995, used a Paulson THC set, which again, had the distinctive Regency Cruise logo and the boat name printed on their inlay. We have seen racks/barrels of their $100 chip but almost none of the other denominations are known to exist in quantity.
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I believe the Regent Rainbow and Regent Spirit chips provide us a clue as to what might have happened to their casino operations around the time they started operating/managing both ships. Indeed, one possible explanation is that from 1992-1993, Regency Cruises switches strategy and the company decide it’s time they capture the full revenues from their casinos. That involves setting up (or replacing, but I haven’t accessed the concession contracts obviously) « infrastructure » otherwise provided provided by Atlantic Maritime, on some (or all) of their ships. The employee I spoke to seem to believe that’s what happened. And as it turns out, luckily for us, Lelakis already has a relationship with Paulson when he takes over the group in 1993 - more on that later, providing us with some absolutely phenomenal chips on the Regent Rainbow.

Up to this point, there is nothing controversial and you might wonder where I am going with this…well, around 3 years AFTER the company filed for bankruptcy, these show up in the Paulson store
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photo credit @JeepologyOffroad
Ship Name & Years in operationCasino chips
Regent Sea (‘84-95)Atlantic Maritimes (confirmed)
Regent Star (‘86-95)Probably Atlantic Maritimes (unconfirmed)
Regent Sun (‘88-95)Probably Atlantic Maritimes (unconfirmed)
Regent Spirit (‘92-95)Regency Cruises, Regent Spirit (ASM A-mold, HHR - confirmed)
Regent Rainbow (‘92-95)Regency Cruises, Regent Rainbow (Paulson TH&C - confirmed)
Regent Jewel, subsequently renamed Regent Calypso(‘93-94)No casino according to the deck plans
Regent Isle (1995 - cancelled)unknown


The Regent Isle: the ship that never sailed and one theory on the provenance
of the Regency Cruises (no boat) chips


In 1998, Regency Cruises (no boat) chips popped up in the Paulson retail store in Vegas, where some denominations (unclear which ones exactly) were offered for sale at 65c/chip. As far as I can tell, it seems that nobody particularly cared about them until someone listed singles on eBay, alongside CDIs - also offered in the Paulson shop for the same price, for a massive mark up. The seller was called out on TCB for the mark up and for loosely describing the CDIs as movie props, which then brought the focus on the provenance of the Regency Cruises.

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At first, it was thought these might have been fantasy chips (the horror!) but it looks like collectors with extensive knowledge about cruises & Florida gaming tokens, some using contacts with Paulson, did a pretty good job at establishing two things.

First, a contact at Paulson confirmed - when they were still picking up the phone it seems - these chips were ordered by but never delivered to Regency Cruises. Regency Cruises was an existing client with Paulson when these chips were ordered, as a previous order (what exactly we don’t know, probably the Regent Rainbow?) had been delivered. As a result, we can reasonably conclude that these specific chips were produced between 1992 and 1995. Two, the chips had been used on two completely unrelated day cruises ships in Florida at two different points in time. The $500 chip had even been used in a California cardroom!

Which then raised two questions. Why were they ordered but not delivered? How did they end up in a Paulson retail store AND inside a casino?

Let’s start with the latter, the seemingly easier question to answer. The Paulson retail store routinely sold home poker chips, but also cancelled and undelivered casino chips. Apparently, according to one of the author of the guide on Florida and Cruise tokens, some of these chips would even be lent out to casinos who needed them while their order with Paulson was being produced and/or awaiting to be delivered. And that would explain why the Regency Cruises chips ended up on the Royal Princess, owned by P&O, in the late 90s and a Casino Venture Inc ship in the early 2000s. That doesn’t explain why all the $100 known to exist are notched though.

So I guess what’s left to answer regarding their provenance is why they weren’t delivered? Maybe the simplest explanation is also the best one. Regency Cruises might have placed the order with Paulson in the first half of 1995 only to file for bankruptcy in October. Paulson was then left with the chips.

On which ship were they meant to be used then? I don’t have anything better than educated guesses. In 1995, Regency Cruises was in the process of closing a deal with P&O to have the Fair Princess chartered to Regency, with the intention to have it trade under the name of Regent Isle. The company even circulated a brochure for the 1995-1996 season but the Regent Isle would never trade for Regency Cruises as it filed for bankruptcy just before its maiden voyage. Maybe these chips were meant to be played on that boat and were ordered BEFORE Regency Cruises had come up with a name for the ship? Or more simply, as the concession agreements with Atlantic Maritime were rolling off, maybe they were meant to be used across multiple ships, which meant there was no point having any boat name printed on them? But the, how come we have found so few of them?

One thing most will agree on though, they’re absolutely phenomenal chips!
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Photo credit @JeepologyOffroad

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(I have reached out to Paulson through the official contact form, but the probability I ever hear back from them is effectively 0)​


The Cruise Chip Connection: Regency Cruises, Royal Venture Cruise Lines
and Starlite Cruises

Spend a bit of time looking at these cruise lines and you realize that they are all connected either through their use of certain ships and/or their ownership. But they might also have shared a chip designer working for them at Paulson. Which brings me to the Starlite Cruises and RVCL.

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Starlite Cruises was owned by A. Lelakis who, as mentioned above, later bought Regency Cruises. Starlite Cruises planned to operate the SS Rainbow but never did (it appears Starlite Cruises was under financial stress), and the boat would immediately be transferred to Regency Cruises and renamed Regent Rainbow. Notice how the Starlite and Regency Cruises - Regent Rainbow chips share almost identical base colors, spot patterns and progression? Much later, Mr. Kyriakides, one of the co-founders of Regency Cruises, bought the Regent Sun in bankruptcy, with the intention to charter it for Royal Venture Cruise Line. It might have never sailed, but they got their Paulson order delivered, we have seen the chips on PCF - agin, ever notice how the Regency Cruises (no boat) chips and RVCL share almost identical base colors, spot patterns and progressions? They probably used the same designer? Whoever was responsible, they had great taste.

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Picture credit @RainmanTrail


Regency Cruises (no boat): showcase

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(more pictures to come)


Sources:
Regency Cruises - Wikipedia
"The rise and fall of: Regency Cruises" - cruiseoctopus.com
« Remembering Regency Cruises… », cruisecapital.co.uk, link
The ChipBoard Archive 01 "James Bond Cruises on Regency" (9 June 1998) - link
The ChipBoard Archive 01 "New Day Cruise boat - Freeport, New York" (14 April 1998) - link
The ChipBoard Archive 01 "Response from..." (8 June 1998) - link
"Starlite Cruises Expansion", cruiseindustrynews.com (1991 link)
"Regency and Rainbow Merge", cruiseindustrynews.com (1993, link)
"Regency Cruises plans to go public", cruiseindustrynews.com (1994, link)
"Confusion as Cruise line halts operations", New York times archives (1995, link)
"Regency declares bankruptcy", Washington Post (1995, link)
 
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Hate to speculate, but perhaps the existing chips in play on the boats or were at least delivered may have been destroyed, either as required by law or unceremoniously dumped into the ocean.
 
Curious as to how so many RVCL chips -- and equipment / tables -- ended up in Kentucky (purchased at auction by a casino-night-for-hire company), prior to getting listed on eBay.

I heard a rumor that the specific RVCL chips you mention were all in Cali. Looks like there might be quite a few.

Thanks for sharing! Quite an interesting read

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. The Collectors section doesn't get as much attention as the other sections, and I think it is a shame. Especially at a time where old school and/or patented mold, along with all sorts of designs get copied. But that discussion is for another thread.

I was quite surprised to learn that the Atlantic Martimes had been used on some of their ships. There is someone who has a set of them but can't remember who...
 
Brochures (let me know if you want inside pics)
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ever notice how the Regency Cruises (no boat) chips and RVCL share almost identical base colors, spot patterns and progressions? They probably used the same designer?

fyi.. from my understanding, the guy Krish met with and acquired several sets from was the designer.
Designed Regency, RVCL, Starlite and several others as well.

Some additional RVCL chips
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Brochures (let me know if you want inside pics)
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fyi.. from my understanding, the guy Krish met with and acquired several sets from was the designer.
Designed Regency, RVCL, Starlite and several others as well.

Some additional RVCL chips

Love it! Picked up a bunch of brochures too - some still have to make it here but coincidentally I have just received the one you have pictured on the right.


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Regent Sun - Deck Plans.png

Regent Spirit - Deck Plans.png
Regent Rainbow - Deck Plans.png

Regent Calypso - Deck Plans.png
 
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Hi Folks, I am that employee that provided the image of the safe and worked aboard. To add some more information to this, here is some information about the founder of the company who supplied staff and sevices to various cruise lines.

Mr Joel Rahn – Was the founder and CEO of Atlantic Associates/Atlantic Maritime Services, a company providing casino services and equipment to the cruise industry worldwide.

He started his gaming career as an export distributor of gaming equipment for Bally Manufacturing.

Mr. Rahn formed Greater Atlantic Holdings which developed “Casino At Sea” a unique brand & business model that provided out-sourced casino gaming on cruise vessels. He held progressive executive management positions for various private and public gaming companies.

He unfortunately is no longer with us, he passed away on May 26th 2020 in Florida.

For those of us who worked for those companies we will be eternally grateful for the opportunity it gave us to travel the world, experience lots of different cultures and basically have a great time while getting paid. It was a truly wonderful experience and we felt as though we were part of a large family.

There is a list of cruise ships attached which at one point those companies had a concession aboard. (It is not a full complete list).

A couple of close ups of the casino chips. (I think I took the photos of the chips on a dull sea day after I had bought a new camera the day before, must have been trying out the camera, I only remembered the photos had been taken when looking through a box recently.
 

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I also worked for Atlantic Associates in 1994, first on the Nieuw Amsterdam and then on the Regent Sea where I went to Alaska and then an ill fated cruise around South America. The casino was closed for most of the time in Alaska due to the strict gambling laws which was fantastic for us casino staff! I still have some chips somewhere and other memorabilia. Although the Regent Sea was slightly old and a bit of a rust bucket, I had an amazing time and got to see places most people can only dream of. Definitely fun times!
 

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