Gambling on the High Seas – Fun Facts About Cruise Ship Casinos
Gambling laws are a major buzzkill in many parts of the world. But there is one place where these laws do not carry much weight – out on the high seas and far away from the land of course.
In the 1920s and 30s, Mafia dons and other crime organizations tried to use this loophole to provide gambling on boats and ships to folks who live in coastal states like California and New York. These ships were anchored just beyond the territorial waters, with people ferried in on boats to play.
GLITZ AND GLAMOUR
The courts had a simple solution to this problem – extend the legal limit of territorial waters from 3 to 12 nautical miles! That really killed the offshore gambling ships, because nobody was willing to travel that far out to the sea just for gambling!
But these days, you no longer have to rely on shady businesses offering casino games on seedy ships and ferries. Massive cruise liners have long made casinos part of their never-ending list of attractions and entertainment options.
Do all cruise liners offer casinos?
Most of the cruise lines offer gambling facilities on at least some of their ships. The only big-name exception is Disney. None of their huge ships have any form of casinos or gambling on board. That makes a lot of sense since Disney would want to keep things as kid-friendly as possible.
On all other cruise ships, gambling is very much on the cards. The simple rule of thumb is – the bigger the ship, the bigger the casino on board. The Royal Caribbean line is famous for its Oasis-class ships, the biggest cruise liners in the world.
They have absolutely massive casinos on these ships, with over 450 slot machines and numerous game tables spread across thousands of square feet. The Oasis of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean vessel, holds the record of having the largest Vegas-style casino on the water.
The other cruise lines are not far behind either. The bigger ships from lines like Holland America, Norwegian, and Carnival Line all offer large casinos. Mid-size ships from companies like Oceania have smaller casinos with less than 50 slots machines. Windstar and Seabourn are examples of lines with the smallest ocean casinos, often having just a handful for tables and slot machines.
The games you can play on a cruise
If you are on a big ship like the Oasis series, everything you are used to playing in a land-based casino will be available at sea as well. This includes modern slot machines, video poker machines, and an assorted selection of cards, craps, and roulette tables.
The number and variety of machines and tables go down as you decrease the size of a cruise ship. Most of the games are where you play against the house, like blackjack for instance. Playing against other players is also possible with poker tables available at many of the larger casinos.
Cruise ships also run tournaments and leaderboard contest on a regular basis. Slots and blackjack tournaments are pretty popular these days. The prizes for winners are varied, with some offering cash or rewards in the form of cruise tickets.
Chances of winning on a Cruise Casino
The casinos on these ships are like a slice of Las Vegas recreated on a vessel that floats on water. In fact, many ships have tie-ins with major casino operators like Caesar to run their onboard casinos.
So there is not much difference in the odds when it comes to Vegas casinos vs. Cruise casinos. You will always have the chance to win, but at the end of the day, the house (or ship) always wins.
The main focus of a cruise is to have fun. The addition of a casino is aimed at giving the tourists yet another avenue to spend their money while at sea. So don’t expect too much when you head to these casinos.
Most of these casinos are geared towards amateur and beginner players. So the games generally tend to be low stake affairs. The bigger cruise ship casinos will usually have a VIP room dedicated to more serious gamblers.
On smaller ships, you can often persuade the pit boss or casino host to create high stakes games if you have enough interested players. But that is often an exceptional situation, not the norm.
Some quirks of Cruise Ship Casinos
Life on a cruise ship casino is quite different from a regular casino, despite all the similarities. One of the biggest differences is that casinos on ships are not open 24×7. Many only operate in the evening or at night.
These casinos are also required shut down when the cruise ship gets close to the shore, in respect of local gambling laws. But if you are heading to ports where gambling is legal, like in Monte Carlo or certain Caribbean destinations, this is not applicable.
And when the ship is docked at a port, the casino remains closed for most of the time. For example, if your cruise ship docks at New York (USA) or Sidney (Australia), they will close the casino out of respect to local laws. But the moment a ship reaches beyond the 12 or 24 nautical mile mark, the casino opens as it’s still legal in international waters.
Also, drinks are NOT free or complimentary on most cruise ship casinos! You will have to pay if you want to keep your spirits up. Unless of course, if you are on luxury lines like Crystal and Regent, the drinks are always free.
Smoking is allowed on most cruise ships, with just a few notable exceptions. Most casinos have designated smoking areas these days for players who need that nicotine rush.