The UK Traveler’s Guide to Cruise Ship Gambling

UK Traveler’s Guide to Cruise Ship Gambling

When it comes to the term “land-based casinos”, its antonym is not necessarily online casinos but also gambling on cruise ships. A modern curiosity, several ocean liners that offer their own, exclusive casino lounges regularly depart from the UK, including Royal Caribbean and Azamara.

Gambling on such cruise ships offers the thrill of potential earnings, wrapped in the luxurious atmosphere of a floating casino. Imagine the fastest payout online casino in the style of Las Vegas that operates almost entirely in international waters – to which the typical gambling regulations don’t apply as they do to landlubbers.

How Cruise Ship Casinos Operate


So, what do cruise ship casinos look like, exactly? They mostly resemble their land-based counterparts, though often on a smaller scale.

The first ship casinos date back to the 19th century, with some Mississippi river boats in America offering a way to kill time while onboard. Since then, river boats evolved into luxurious cruise ships that crisscross the ocean, and the games expanded its variety tenfold.

Cruise ships are subject to maritime laws, but once they dock or enter territorial waters of a country, they immediately fall under its jurisdiction. Depending on the country, the permitted distance from the coast may range from three to 12 nautical miles.

There are exceptions to this rule, too. Certain jurisdictions like Malta and Bermuda allow cruise ships that stay overnight in port to operate.

Because of this, cruise ship casinos are only open when the ship is out to sea or in port (provided that the country allows gambling).

But even en route to destination, the operating hours at cruise ships are usually restricted, although this restriction is quite lenient. Casinos often open in the late evening and close around 2 or 3 am.

In other words, passengers have ample time to indulge in gambling as well as other on-ship activities.

The Casino Experience at Sea


A typical cruise ship passenger can enjoy a wide variety of casino games: from something more traditional like poker and roulette to more specific table games. There are both dealer-dealt tables as well as electronic machines represented onboard. Players who don’t consider themselves high stake gamblers may even find penny slots.

Naturally, slot machines are a staple in cruise ship casinos, just like in traditional casinos. More competitive players may be interested in tournaments, with prizes limited to not only cash but also vouchers and even a free cruise.

Another perk of gambling at sea is that cruise lines have loyalty programs that reward frequent players with complimentary drinks, cabin treats, and credits for amenities.

Legal Gambling Age on Cruise Ship Casinos and Other Restrictions

The minimum age for entering and playing in cruise ship casinos is generally 18, although some lines like Royal Caribbean and Azamara raise the age limit to 21 for certain sailings.

The exact legal gambling age depends on the cruise ship, its country of origin, and its destination, with this information covered in promotional materials.

When it comes to payment methods, cruise ship casinos are versatile and allow the use of credit and debit cards as well as cruise cards. However, it's important to note that not all ships offer cash transactions, so always check this information before you book your cruise.

Gambling Taxes on Cruise Ship Casinos

While gambling on cruise ships happens in international waters, this does not make it no man’s land. Certain regulations still apply, especially when it comes to taxes.

A cruise ship outside of territorial waters is not subject to the laws and taxes of any one country. This means that a player’s money is generally not taxed at the point of winning.

However, passengers are still responsible for following the tax jurisdiction of their home country. Every country has its own standards for tax-free winnings.

For example, the tax burden in the UK falls on the operators, not individual players. Casino operators are subject to a point of consumption tax (POCT) on all bets placed by UK residents.

Are Cruise Ship Casinos Regulated?

One point of concern for players who are eyeing a potential gambling cruise is regulation – or, more specifically, lack thereof. While this comes as a benefit when you’re playing due to a reduced amount of red tape, disputes are another thing entirely.

Who will protect you and resolve your complaints?

This matter is officially handled by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a cruise line trade organization. CLIA holds hotel managers and directors directly accountable for the quality of customer service and adherence to fair play.

In case of a gaming dispute, the issue must be resolved by a casino manager. If the latter fails to help the player, the next point of reference is a hotel manager. If the issue is not resolved while on board the cruise ship, CLIA obligates the cruise ship to provide contact information of their home office and help resolve the matter.

While this system is still far from perfect – no gambling regulations are, CLIA does provide a solid regulatory foundation.

A Comparison With Other Gambling Venues

Compared to land-based and online casinos, cruise ship casinos offer a truly unique experience. They might not provide the extensive game variations and low-entry gambling options of online casinos or the wide selection of games and lower house edge of land-based casinos.

However, the allure of gambling while cruising adds a distinct charm and excitement of gambling while at sea, making it a popular choice for vacationers. Onboard perks, tournaments, lower table buy-ins, loyalty programs, and the luxurious atmosphere are the cherry on top.

How to Choose a Cruise Ship Casino

When it comes to choosing a cruise ship casino, there are several factors that impact the onboard gambling experience:

  1. Casino size: opt for larger cruise ships if a wide range of games is important to you.
  2. Table minimums: if you’re gambling mostly for fun, look for casinos with lower buy-ins. On the other hand, high rollers can find cruise casinos that cater to their preferences.
  3. Rewards programs: these can offer perks like free play, complimentary drink, cabin upgrades, and more.
  4. Age restrictions: as we shared above, different ships have different age restrictions, mostly starting in the range of 18-21.
  5. Gambling regulations: for peace of mind, choose a cruise line that ensures fair play.
  6. Port regulations: be aware that some cruise destinations may have restrictions on gambling.
  7. Passenger reviews: pay special attention to any stories about dispute resolution.
  8. Promotional materials: check the cruise line’s official website and make sure it clearly states contact information.

A word of caution: as with any form of gambling, it's crucial to gamble responsibly. Setting a budget and adhering to it can help ensure that the experience remains enjoyable without financial strains.

With extensive experience in the professional iGaming industry since 2015 and thousands of casino articles and reviews under his belt, Mattias is a seasoned expert well-versed in the world of online casino gambling.
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