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Articles in this Series
Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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A Final Word on Cruise Ship Gambling

19 February 2002

I conclude my investigative series about the unregulated world of cruise ship gambling today with an analysis of what the International Council of Cruise Lines defines as "customer service", followed by a peak at what one cruise line operator calls a "player's club."

CUSTOMER SERVICE

What the guidelines say: The onboard casino operations will be the overall responsibility of the hotel manager or director, who is charged with ensuring the highest standard of conduct for casino staff.

In case of a gaming dispute, any passenger who feels he or she has an issue that cannot be resolved by the casino manager should bring it up to the hotel manager, and every effort will be made to resolve the problem. If the issue is not resolved on board the vessel, each ship will have at the casino cage a current list of contact information for their home office or casino operator where the passenger can pursue their dispute.

The cruise line will have onboard comment cards for the inclusion of any comment, concern, or means to improve the gambling system on board the vessel.

What they mean: Putting the operation of the casino under the job description of the hotel manager or director is a travesty. There is no way a hotel manager has the expertise of a seasoned casino professional administrator when it comes to dealing with the public's disputes and/or concerns. The hotel manager has enough to worry about, what with housekeeping and food and beverage service operations, just to name a few. Perhaps the ultimate authority should rest with the casino manager if that person has the experience and standards worthy of such serious responsibility.

In summation, it seems that cruise ship casinos afford passengers an entertainment option. But because the cruise lines don't take them as seriously as state licensed gaming jurisdictions on the mainland, it isn't worth it for players to risk serious time and money in them.

PLAYERS CLUBS

The only example of a cruise line casino player's club made me laugh. It was Carnival's "Ocean Players Club." The good news is that the program affords the opportunity for frequent casino guests to accumulate points based on play. The points are redeemable for future cruises, cash, and/or discounts. The bad news is that in order to qualify for membership a player must maintain a minimum bet of $25 or more and play for a minimum of two hours per day! It is further noted that failure to meet the requirements results in no ratings for the trip. A six-day cruise, therefore, would require the passenger to play for 12 hours while making bets of $25 or more.

So flexible and unregulated are onboard casino operations that there's a note stating the maximum bet in the casino is $300, but that higher bets must be requested prior to sailing and approved by the casino director. It's as if they get to write their own rules, a very dangerous aspect of gambling in unregulated, international waters.

Is it all worth it? Say, for example, you play blackjack for 12 hours at $25 per hand. If there is a hand dealt every two minutes, that's $750 at risk per hour or $9,000 at risk over 12 hours. Not only that, are the blackjack rules in effect favorable to players? Are there multiple decks and restrictions on splitting and doubling down? If there are, the price you pay for playing is too great to justify any rewards you may receive.

Can you imagine any casino the Chicago-area, or the entire country for that matter, restricting membership to players who make average bets of $25?

I hope you have found this series informative. If you have any cruise ship or "cruises to nowhere" casino experiences to share, please write to me at the Daily Southtown, 6901 W. 159th Street, Tinley Park, Ill., 60477, fax to 708-447-7002, or e-mail jgbjet@ameritech.net.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp