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Articles in this Series
Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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High Sea Gambling Dangers

29 January 2002

Last week I began a series about gambling casinos that are operated aboard ocean cruise ships and luxury vacation liners. In stark contrast to the strict regulations and disclosure requirements that riverboat casino and land-based casino destinations across the United States mainland are subjected, casinos that float in international waters are pretty much given license to do as they please.

Just how are the interests of the consumer protected in this unregulated gambling realm? For the most part, they aren't. The vacation cruise line companies have no interest in cultivating product loyalty in their casinos. The majority of the business they attract is a "one shot" audience comprised mainly of people who aren't really serious about gambling.

With this thought in mind, gambling aboard cruise ships and luxury liners is something serious, knowledgeable players should avoid. Perhaps you may consider a minor investment in some gaming fun while you're cruising, but by no means should you risk losing a considerable sum of money on the floating hotels. Enjoy all of the other amenities of your cruise, save your money for your vacation entertainment, and save your gambling time for when you return home.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, here's how one gambling industry insider summed up the veiled world of gambling aboard cruise ships:

"To my knowledge, there is no regulation. They are in international waters and can do as they please. There are two varieties: The 'legit' cruises which are major resort, vacation, and travel-type companies, sometimes publicly traded. On-ship gaming is just one of many, many activities. Then there is the relatively new phenomenon of 'cruises to nowhere.' These are ships that are operated to do one thing: Have casino gambling. They pick up people at a port in a non-gaming state, travel back out to sea until they are in international waters, and then let the games begin. Some cities and states have tried to block them, but they have usually not been successful. My general feeling is that most of these cruises to nowhere are pretty shady operations. My guess is that both kinds of cruise ships have pretty low payouts compared to land-based casinos."

The only regulatory controls I discovered while I was researching this series were guidelines prepared by an organization called the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL). The policy statement of the ICCL reads as follows:

The International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) is dedicated to assisting our members in providing a safe, secure, and entertaining ship environment for its cruise ship passengers. Among the services that illustrate that commitment is the gambling casinos found on most of the ICCL member vessels.

Just how serious should you take the guidelines and how much confidence can you put in them? I'll explore the topic in next week's column.

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