If you’re a keen, gambling enthusiast and have never embarked on a cruise before, your world is about to be shaken up! Cruise ship gambling is one of the most fun and entertaining ways to win money, whilst you lap up the sunshine in your beach gear, and explore a plethora of beautiful places and sites. Floating casinos are fantastic because they combine practically everything you could ever need from a normal holiday without the need to venture out or spend much money. Instead, you’ve got the opportunity to sit there relaxing all day while making money!
In this article we take a look at the ins and outs of cruise-ship gambling, as well as some useful information which you can utilize if you do decide to try it out yourself!
A brief history of cruise ship gambling
Although land-based casinos and river-boat style casinos date back to the 19th century, cruise ships came onto the scene around 20-30 years later. This style of gaming took off in American waters initially, where the ‘lumber schooner’ Johanna Smith, was converted into a gambling ship and began operating off the coast of Long Beach, California back in 1928. Unfortunately the ship itself caught fire and sank in 1932.
More ships followed in various other states throughout the next few decades, including the SS Monte Carlo which was renowned for “drinks, dice and dolls”, but again on New Year’s Day (whether this is due to the crew and guests playing too many drinking games or not), the vessel became shipwrecked about a quarter mile away from San Diego.
Some of the other gambling ships which met a particularly watery fate were: The Monfalcone, Rose Isle, SS Texas, SS Reno and William H. Harriman – (do not fret, cruise ships these days are built to withstand the harshest conditions, and are prepared for practically any eventuality!)
In Hawaii, the laws were much stricter when casino cruise ships were introduced. The 3 states did not legalize any form of gambling, and made it a regulation that any vessels docking in ports around the area would only be permitted to operate its casino once it reached international waters – or, providing its final destination was not for one of the Hawaiian Islands.
Like all activity that takes place away from land, it was much harder for authorities to regulate at the time when gambling first took off on cruise ships. Initially there was a 3 nautical mile rule (5.6km) which allowed for national rights to still be enforced. All activity extending beyond these parameters were considered ‘international waters’ and therefore exempt all nations from coastal laws and legal codes. In the mid-1940s, various other nations had their rights extended to cater for up to a distance of 12 nautical miles. This was due to concerns over the depletion of fish stocks and important mineral resources. There are only 2 countries in the world that still use the 3 mile rule today – Jordan and Palau, as well as a few islands and smaller sea territories in Australia, Papa New Guinea and Great Britain.
Cruise ship gambling in other countries
Even though the USA has the biggest cruise market, which generate billions of dollars in revenue every year – gambling at sea is still popular among other countries as well.
Japan is one of these, and although they have outlawed many forms of gambling, (with the exception of motorsport, horseracing and lotteries) cruise ships became permitted in both international and Japanese waters as of 2016, when officials realized it could provide a significant boost in tourism.
Israel is another country who permit the act of gambling at sea, even though many land-based casinos operations are still forbidden. The Penal Law 5737 was passed in 1977, and despite it still containing many grey areas around gambling laws here, over the years it has undergone changes which now allows for sports betting, horse racing and the lottery. Like Japan, the authorities became fearful numbers in tourism would drop drastically if they didn’t implement some kind of leniency in their laws. In 1995 cruise ship gambling was permitted.
The Thai economy is also heavily influenced by tourism. Even though gambling is prohibited here, the state does allow bets for the state lottery as well as horse racing. Cruise ship casinos became permitted after authorities decided this form of gambling is the best way to keep up with the influx of foreigners that vacate here each year.
Different types of casino cruises
If you’re considering your own casino cruise vacation, there are a variety of different kinds you can choose from according to your budget and personal preference. These range from luxury river and sea cruises, day and night cruises, and much less expensive and shorter ones if you are looking to keep the costs to a minimum. Most of the time, you’ll always be accommodated with all-inclusive food and drinks, as well as heaps of entertainment such as cabarets, spa and wellness facilities, nightclubs and shops to indulge in, and of course access to the ships casino – providing you are old enough to hit the tables and real money slot machines that is!
If you’re considering your own casino cruise vacation, there are a variety of different kinds you can choose from according to your budget and personal preference. These range from luxury river and sea cruises, day and night cruises, and much less expensive and shorter ones if you are looking to keep the costs to a minimum. Most of the time, you’ll always be accommodated with all-inclusive food and drinks, as well as heaps of entertainment such as cabarets, spa and wellness facilities, nightclubs and shops to indulge in, and of course access to the ships casino – providing you are old enough to hit the tables and slots that is!
Depending on where you choose to go for your cruise, it’s worth noting that some countries have different age limits for gambling and restrictions on consuming alcohol. So if you want to make sure you can drink and play without any worries, choose a cruise where this isn’t going to be an issue, and also check out the kind of games the casino offers in advance! You wouldn’t want to get there and discover they don’t provide your favorite version of online Blackjack would you?!
Taxes on winnings on cruise ship casinos
Based on the winning amount, some cruise ships can tax jackpots and large sums of cash that are won on their premises. It’s all dependent on whether your winnings are deemed worthy of being reported to the state by the casino first of all. Say for example you won $1,500 in a single pay-out, the house is technically required to provide the winner with a form so they can declare it tax deductible, but this is only if the casino originates from a country which taxes casino players. The United Kingdom scrapped this law in 2001, so all players would keep every penny of their winnings, whereas if you hit big at Las Vegas for example – you can expect to be taxed as much as 25%, depending on the game you won it on.
Cruise ship casino environment vs Land-based casino establishment
Although there aren’t too many dissimilarities between brick-and-mortar casinos and gambling ships, there may be a slightly more limited amount of slot machines for example, due to the fact that the cruise ship will have a much smaller gaming area, as it has to accommodate for an abundance of other facilities too.
Despite the fact that smoking is strictly prohibited throughout cruise ships, you’ll be surprised to discover that you can actually light one up when you’re physically playing in a cruise casino. A privilege which was removed from all live establishments many years ago.
A pitfall in cruise ship casinos, is the fact that they do not make it easy for players to cash out unlike its land-based counterparts. In a standard casino you would have a piece of printed paper handed out to you by the machine, whereas on cruises you are given a card to keep track of your winnings, and then required to wait in line at the cashier’s desk before you can actually get any money back. All in all, you will still be able to indulge in your favorite style of games including, Poker rooms, Blackjack tournaments, Roulette tables, Slot and Keno machines, Bingo, Baccarat and much more. Cruise ships still use chips like a standard casino too, and tend to operate from 11am until around 2-3am, so if you were planning a whole night of Craps – make sure you check the casinos opening times first to avoid disappointment.
Booking a casino cruise
If you’re ready to book your big casino cruise experience, it’s best to make sure you go through an approved seller or even the cruise providers themselves. Here you can discuss your options in detail and make sure you are getting the best possible deal. If you choose to go all-inclusive, make sure you know what this entails as some packages can be a bit misleading.
Also, if you are going primarily for the casino culture on a cruise ship, be sure to check out what kind of games they have available prior to booking, so you won’t be too disheartened if it turns out they have a limited amount of games, or only certain versions of them.
Interesting casino cruise ship facts
#1 – You can only gamble once the ship is at sea
Due to the conflict in certain laws with many countries, casinos on cruise ships are only allowed to open their doors and operate their services once the ship is in international waters, and when they are no longer under the regulations of land-based authorities.
#2 – The ship’s crew
Seeing as the staff on cruise ships are employed between 10-12 months at a time, they are usually offered an attractive employment package, as the jobs and time they spend working can be very demanding. They are not entitled to any sick pay or pension schemes, but all medical costs, expenses, food and accommodation is covered while they are an employee of the cruise provider. Seeing as you’re already on holiday – you can only take 2 months paid vacation a year when you work for a cruise ship!
#3 – Infections on cruise ships
Now we don’t want to put you off, because cruise ships are actually incredibly hygienic and it’s generally the guests that spread illnesses such as the Norovirus, Legionnaires disease or ETEC (Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli). Because of these outbreaks which have occurred in the past, most ships are constantly asking their guests to wash their hands, or putting up messages as a reminder.
#4 – How they get their names
Many older cruise ships have had multiple owners in the past, and as a result have had their names changed to something more fitting. Some ships have had dozens of different names over the years; many of these come in the form of prefixes or suffixes, as to allow multiple ships to have the same (or similar) names whilst keeping a unique identity.
#5 – Cruise ship security Cruise ships have to have tight airport-style security measures in place, such as body scanners, identity cards for the guests and even firearms on board, due to the fact that many of the guests tend to bring expensive jewelry and valuables onto the ship – not to mention the actual casino homing substantial amounts of money too. In the past, there have been reports of pirates and criminals of the sea trying to make their way onto cruise ships, but you’ll be pleased to know there hasn’t been an incident for many years.
If you’re looking to embark on a casino cruise adventure, you won’t be disappointed! Not only are there opportunities to win some huge jackpots inside their casinos, you’ll also be able to explore various islands and beautiful destinations, bask in sunshine, sample different gourmet cuisines from around the world, and spend endless hours in their facilities and fun zones. It’s an opportunity to make some wonderful memories, spend quality time with your family and loved ones and is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives!