Bets made only on the sea

Casinos are a major source of revenue for cruise companies. According to Cruise Market Watch, the average cruise passenger’s expenditure per day on a worldwide basis in 2013 is US$200.85, which includes $152.39 of ticket price and the remaining $48.47 as onboard spending. For the purposes of their statistics, the average cruise duration was 8.5 days. 

Of the $1,728 spent across the whole vacation, onboard spending was $417 and the largest chunk of their estimated spend was $222 at the casino and bar. Second highest earner for the cruise companies was $81, their take from shore excursions. Spa services were $40 and other onboard spending was $61. 

Ocean Players Club is a service at the casinos of many cruise lines including Aida, Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Ibero, Princess, P&O and Seabourn for a total of nearly 100 individual casinos. It offers promotions, tournaments and VIP service for those keen to spend their on-ship time gambling. Norwegian Cruise Line has a players’ programme called Casinos at Sea, which can earn players subsequently-redeemable points. Independent companies like Cardplayercruises and Worldpokertour also offer specific themed cruises targeted at the card market, a growing segment of the industry.  

Typically, the cruise ships open their gaming areas when they reach international waters 24 miles out (territorial waters stop at 12 miles). This was introduced by the 1991 Cruise Ship Competitiveness Act, which made it legal for US-registered cruise ships to offer gambling under these circumstances.  

Although some destinations do allow the ships to keep their casinos open whilst ported, it is a strictly guests-only entertainment, as specified, for example, in Royal Caribbean’s own cruise rules. 

“Gambling is strictly for the enjoyment of the guests [over 18/21 depending on port] who choose to avail themselves of this form of entertainment,” states their terms and conditions. 

Cruise lines do not actively seek local gamers to fill their casinos whilst docked. This is to avoid conflict with local laws and regulations, which vary in each country plus issues with security and safety.  

A destination such as Cayman would need to carefully consider, from a legal and lawful standpoint, the ability of the ships’ casinos to stay open whilst in port, whilst also taking into consideration such matters as who is entitled or licensed to gamble; what associated industries may crop up around casinos; the role of Caymanian staff in the industry; taxes payable and whether the infrastructure required for the collection thereof would in fact be cost-effective.  


Statistics were drawn from Cruise Market Watch’s proprietary Cruise Pulse and Port Pulse databases, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Carnival Corporation and plc, NCL Corporation Ltd., Cruise Lines International Association, The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association and DVB Bank. 


Poker has swept the popular imagination over the last decade. But is gaming appropriate on cruise ships?–Photo: File

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