What’s the Deal with Cruise Ship Gambling?



If you’re thinking that your next holiday might be an all-inclusive cruise, then there is every chance that, alongside the endless buffets and cringy cabaret acts, you will come across a casino to play at.

There are two reasons for this.  One, cruise ships go into international waters and two, casinos are awesome and if you’re stuck at sea for a week or more, there are few better places to spend your time and money.

Gambling on cruise ships doesn’t come under the same regulations as you’ll find everywhere else.  So here’s a brief rundown of some of the rules surrounding gambling on cruise ships, beginning with the most basic rule.  That rule is that the boat is considered to be an extension of the country under whose flag it sails.  Except when it sails into territorial waters.

What are the laws about gambling at sea?

According to Maritime law, the rules that govern all things seaworthy, the laws about gambling at sea are determined by the nation under which the ship is registered to.  Simple, eh? Well, yes and no.

Once a ship is docked or within a certain distance from the coast of land, then it becomes subject to the law of the land whose coastline it is.  For example, if you are sailing in American waters, activities are governed by US federal and state laws.

And, again under maritime law, international waters become territorial waters when the ship sails within three to twelve miles from the coastline. Should your cruise ship take you to within 12 miles of the coast of the USA, the on-board casino cannot be opened for business because of American attitudes to real money gaming.

With a few exceptions, cruise ship casinos are forced to close while the ship is docked.  This is in order to comply with local gambling rules.  Bear this in mind if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the ship’s casino because you should choose an itinerary with a lot of sea days.

How far out to sea do you have to be to gamble?

Well that largely depends on which land you have just cast off from.  Gambling laws in the US and the UK are very different so, in the US, where casinos are restricted by state, ships must be a minimum of twelve miles out before the first dice is thrown.

How old do you have to be to gamble on a cruise?

The general rule is 21-years, to comply with US law.  That said, it works on an international vessel basis and, of course, on whose water you are floating at the time.  Much like the above, if the nation under whose flag you are sailing has a fairly liberal approach to gambling, then the age cut off might drop to 18, as it is in the UK.

Do you have to pay taxes on gambling wins on a cruise?

Ok, here’s where things get a little more complicated.  Paying taxes on your winnings really depends on whether the amount you win is deemed worthy of reporting to the state by the casino operators on board the ship.

Should somebody win over $1,200 in a single pay out or enjoy a table game win with odds of 300/1 or more, then technically the house is required to provide the forms to the lucky winner who can then pay the taxes on his winnings.  But, only if the casino operators are based in a country that taxes its gambling winners, which the United Kingdom does not because it changed its laws back in 2001.

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Source: Casino


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