Why Playing Cruise Ship Casinos is a Bad Bet

Until 2020 two million people from the UK and Ireland were taking a cruise holiday every year.  A third of these passengers would cruise around the Mediterranean and almost half of these departed from a UK port. But regardless of the seas, ocean or departure point all cruise ships will operate, for the most part, on international waters. This allows them to exploit a captive audience which have money in their pocket and very few places to spend it.

In fact, with food and drink an ‘all-in’ with most people’s cruise package, primarily it is the conveniently placed on-board casino which offers holidaymakers an opportunity to part with their cash. We say ‘conveniently placed’ as on-ship casinos and amusement arcades are always found in the centre of cruise liners meaning tourists have to walk through them several times a day to reach activities bars and restaurants. 

Cruise ship casinos are plush and luring but they are also unregulated.  ‘International waters’ status means cruise line casinos are not bound by any gambling laws and so they can, and do, unduly exploit their customers. In many instances seasoned casino players can and will immediately see how they are being exploited. Blackjack tables featuring strange rules such as ‘no double downs after splits’, ‘double downs on 9’s, 10’s and 11’s only’, dealers ‘hitting on soft 17’s’ and payments of 6/5 about a ‘blackjack’ are commonplace. All are detrimental to players long-term chances of winning. 

Highway Robbery on the High Seas 

Then there are the roulette wheels which almost always feature American-style ‘double zeros’ and only a small disparity between their minimum and maximum bet stakes. It is nearly impossible to recoup big losses losses when the minimum bet is £/€5 and the maximum stakes are just £/€10. So understandably you are likely to head to the slot machines to get your entertainment but, on a cruise liner, they exploit customers even more than the gaming tables.

That’s two zeros on that Royal Caribbean roulette wheel …

Whereas the typical Las Vegas slot offers a return of 95% and online slots average out around 97-98%, their at sea floating counterparts can, and regularly do, return less than 80% of their take. If this piracy is not enough to send you overboard lookout for additional non-gambling hidden charges…  Holidaymakers can incur a cost when buying gaming chips and you should look out for a charge (of up to three percent) when making chip purchases by credit card and/or returning winnings to any card account.

3 Comments
  1. Reply
    Bob Battersby at

    Piracy! Like the description, very fitting

  2. Reply
    Jules at

    Wow, what a rip-off. FOBT’s eat your heart out

  3. Reply
    Stu Elliott at

    It really is amazing what you learn – and have never thought of before. Cruise companies really do milk you for all they can

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