Catching The Next Wave – Cruise ships; and gambling, return to the seas

Cruise holidays have always been incredibly popular with vacationers across the globe and, while, like so many things, became a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic with most ships grounded for many months. As the world returns to normal – at least in terms of holidays – thousands of people are booking up their next cruise and looking forward to a week or two of exploring the world while enjoying onboard dining, entertainment and, of course, gambling. 

Chips on ships

Catching The Next Wave - Cruise ships; and gambling, return to the seas

Every year, thousands of cruise ship passengers enjoy a flutter at onboard casinos as part of their holiday fun. In fact, a significant chunk of a ship’s takings come from its casino and, managers are so keen to keep their gamblers in the casino that, often, the casino will be the only place on the ship where customers are permitted to smoke indoors. As popular as these onboard gambling dens are, cruise ships are subject to some pretty rigid rules and regulations and, in this section, we’ll take a look at some of these (with a few fun facts thrown in for good measure): 

Getting online

If you’re going on a cruise, you might be looking forward to putting your feet up in your stateroom and logging onto your favourite online gambling site. Unfortunately, depending on your ship, you may be disappointed (not least by the eye watering cost of wifi onboard). As you may know, many countries prohibit gambling – which leads cruise ships into murky waters. Maritime laws state that, once a ship is 12 miles from shore, it is in international waters and may therefore regulate itself – which means that you will be allowed to access casino online. If, however, your ship is registered to a company which prohibits gambling, you may find that you are unable to enjoy your hobby while onboard as access will be blocked. 

Onboard casinos

Similar to the rules on online gambling, the maritime law of 12 miles applies. This means that, while you’ll be able to play games in the casino to your heart’s content while in international waters; once the ship enters the territory of a country (ie moves within the 12 miles), the casino will usually close until the vessel is once more at a safe distance. 

A taxing subject

You may be wondering if you have to pay taxes on your winnings from a cruise ship’s casino – and the answer is yes and no. If the operators of the ship’s casino hail from a country which taxes gambling winners, then, yes, you’ll have to pay tax – and the casino staff will usually give you a form for this. If, however, the operator is from a country like the UK which doesn’t tax winners, then you’ll be free to keep your winnings all to yourself. 

Fun fact: Royal Caribbean’s The Oasis Of The Seas holds the record of having the biggest Las Vegas style casino onboard, with over 450 slot machines and tons of gaming tables spread across thousands of square feet. 


Spending time in a cruise ship casino can be great fun (even more so if you have a big win), however, you should make sure that you’re aware of all the rules and regulations before booking your trip. 

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