Things to Consider Before Setting Sail on a Casino Cruise

min read
Woman walks towards cruise liner
BetMGM Jul 23, 2023, 6:02 AM

Whether you’re someone who spends a lot of time enjoying popular casino games at an online casino or you prefer a traditional land-based casino, there’s no doubt that the idea of sailing off into the sunset on a casino cruise sounds extremely appealing. The question is, how can you ensure smooth gaming while sailing? And what exactly can you expect from this type of vacation? Most importantly, what are the most crucial considerations to keep in mind before making your booking? You’ll be sure to find all the answers that you’re looking for below.

Does Every Cruise Ship Come With a Casino?

No! This is why it’s important to do your research before booking a cruise, especially if gambling is a big part of your vacation agenda. While most of the larger, more popular cruise lines boast ships with impressive casinos on board, it’s not worth taking the chance that this entertainment luxury is a given. 

Instead, it’s a good idea to scope out and book a dedicated casino cruise (where onboard gambling is the main attraction) to be really sure that you’ll get what you’re looking for – and what you’re paying for!

What Types of Casino Games Are Usually on Offer?

This is another important consideration. After all, just because a cruise ship claims to have a casino on board, that doesn’t mean the casino is going to offer the full spectrum of casino games you’re used to when playing online. In fact, the majority of onboard casinos mainly feature casino slot games, with many neglecting to offer any casino table games whatsoever because they take up too much space and require croupiers. Those that do offer table games will usually only assign one table per game, which means that more often than not you’ll have to wait your turn to play.

Dedicated casino cruises, on the other hand, should offer at least a handful of tables per game for all the player favorites, such as poker, baccarat, blackjack and roulette. Of course, if you’re only looking to play one particular type of game, you’ll need to finetune your research to pin down which is the best casino cruise ship for you. 

Is Gambling on Board Allowed 24/7 or Are There Restrictions?

Unfortunately, there are various restrictions in place and very few onboard casinos are open 24/7. Most will open late morning or early afternoon and close again around 2 a.m. It’s good to note, too, that onboard casinos are forced to remain closed at all times when the ship is docked at a port in a country where gambling is illegal.

What Is the Legal Gambling Age on Most Casino Cruises?

This will differ from cruise line to cruise line, but it’s safe to say most cruise companies operate according to a minimum gambling age of 18. Others maintain a higher minimum age of 21, especially when sailing towards certain destinations such as the Caribbean or Alaska. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 20, it’s definitely recommended to double-check with your chosen cruise line to see whether you’ll be allowed to gamble on board before going ahead and making a booking – particularly if it’s a deal-breaker. 

Do You Get Free Drinks on a Casino Cruise?

A woman’s hand holds a cocktail drink on the deck of a cruise ship.

Many cruisers expect this perk, but it’s rarely the case unless you’re setting sail on a luxury cruise where drinks are always free, regardless of whether you’re in the casino or not. If free drinks are specifically what you’re after, be sure to sign up to take advantage of your chosen cruise line’s casino-specific loyalty program as loyalty points can often be converted into drinks at the bar. However, as a word of warning, we strongly recommend you don’t visit the onboard casino if you’re under the influence of alcohol because it will adversely affect the way you play and how you bet.

Can You Smoke in a Ship’s Casino?

Most people are surprised to discover that smoking is often allowed inside onboard casinos but, of course, it depends on the cruise line in question. The majority of cruise ships, however, have both a smoking and a smoke-free section to cater to all their gamblers’ preferences. Some cruise lines do not allow smoking at all inside the onboard casino, though. If you’d like to be allowed to smoke while you gamble, it’s worth checking with the cruise line to confirm its stance on this before securing your spot. 

What Method of Payment Is Accepted in Onboard Casinos?

Check with your chosen cruise line. The rule of thumb is that cruisers can choose to gamble using cash or a cruise card. If you plan to rely solely on a cruise card, set a responsible gambling budget and do your best to stick to it. You’ll usually need to load up your cruise card with credit before boarding but it’s worthwhile to consider bringing a bit of extra cash along too, just in case. Keep in mind that drawing cash at an ATM while on a cruise ship can be quite costly!

Important Legal Facts To Know About Gambling at Sea

Once you’re on your voyage, you might think you’re in the clear but it’s important to understand many of the laws that govern gambling at sea. 

Which Laws Apply to Casinos on Cruise Ships?

Gambling laws on cruise ships are determined by the country the ship is registered with. However, when a ship is docked or near the coast of another country, it has to follow the laws of that specific country. 

For example, in US waters cruise ship casinos have to abide by US federal and state laws. This is because international waters become territorial waters when the ship sails within three to 12 miles from the coastline. So, if you’re planning to hit the casino on a cruise, keep in mind that it might be closed while the ship is close to the coastline or docked in a port. 

Which Tax Laws Apply to Your Winnings?

When it comes to paying taxes on your casino winnings during a cruise, it can get a bit tricky. As a US citizen on a US cruise ship, if you win more than $1,200 in a single payout or score a table game win with odds of 300/1 or higher, the casino is required to provide you with IRS Form W-2G. This form helps you to report your winnings and pay the applicable taxes. For winnings below these thresholds, you won’t receive any forms but you’re still responsible for self-reporting them using IRS Form 1040.

Whether or not you have to pay taxes also depends on the country the casino operators are based in. In the UK, for example, they don’t tax gambling winners anymore since they changed their relevant laws back in 2001. So, if you find yourself cruising in UK waters and strike it lucky, you can keep your winnings without worrying about taxes.

Keep in mind that tax laws can be complex and may vary depending on your country of residence. It’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or advisor to ensure you comply with the tax regulations applicable to your situation.

Who Polices Cruise Casinos?

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) establishes regulations and policies for cruise ship casinos, following standards similar to established casinos in places such as Nevada and New Jersey. With larger casinos on modern cruise ships, compliance and customer service are vital. 

In case of a gambling dispute, passengers should first contact the onboard casino manager. If unresolved, they can escalate the issue to the hotel manager or director. In rare cases, unresolved disputes may require contacting the main office or casino operator on land.

Remember, the regulations and procedures may vary between cruise lines, so it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with their specific policies before setting sail.

Play Your Favorite Casino Games From the Comfort of Your Home At BetMGM

Thankfully you don’t have to go to the trouble of booking a casino cruise for the chance to play some games of chance, because at BetMGM you can play your favorite online casino games such as live dealer blackjack and online roulette without even having to leave your couch! 

Poker more your style? BetMGM has a ton of resources such as blogs on the ten-to-one rule and running it twice to keep you at the top of your game. 

Register at our mobile portal and you’ll be able to play casino table games, online slots and much more anytime, anywhere, ensuring maximum enjoyment and convenience without any stress or hassles along the way.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.