Can Cruise Ship Crew Members Gamble in an Onboard Casino? Insights on Staff Limitations

Signing up for a cruise experience opens up play, relaxation, and discovery opportunities. However, for cruise ship crew members, the adventure comes differently and with certain limitations. Crew members are the face and force behind all the activities and entertainment guests enjoy while onboard the ship. They’re responsible for hosting and providing entertainment and leisure, from dining and events to casino gambling.  

Can cruise ship crews play at the onboard casino? In this article, we’ll cover the general regulations related to onboard casinos and restrictions on crew members.

Onboard Gambling: What’s Behind It

Cruise ships aren’t just for travel; they now offer a whole entertainment package thanks to its many facilities onboard, including casinos. Onboard casinos feature a wide range of games, with slot machines, poker, and table games being the most popular. Unlike online casinos that accept PayPal for UK customers or customers of other countries, onboard casinos generally do not have PayPal or other digital payments (Neteller, Skrill, mobile wallets and others) among their options. Typically an onboard cashier accepts cash and bank cards. 

The US Cruise Ship Competitiveness Act of 1991 was instrumental in shaping the course of gambling aboard cruise vessels. This legislation permitted American-registered cruise ships to host gambling activities once they hit international waters, ushering in the era of cruise ship gambling. Before this law, U.S.-flagged cruise ships didn’t offer gambling options onboard, as they were subject to U.S. regulations relevant for American waters.

Currently, regulations for cruise ship casinos are determined by the laws of the country where the ship is registered, along with international rules that oversee gambling operations conducted while the vessel is navigating on the open sea.

While the gambling laws for online and land-based casinos are clear, it’s far more challenging to know who regulates the laws on the sea. The International Council of Cruise Lines (CLIA) , the largest international industry trade association, unites operators of cruise ships. It exercises some form of regulatory control and sets standards concerning equipment, customer service, anti-corruption policies etc. 

As for the general rules of play, they follow the policies of established casinos,  and operators must post the limits, and only adults are allowed to gamble.

Off-Limits to Crew Members?

Can Cruise Ship Crew Members Gamble in an Onboard Casino? Insights on Staff Limitations | 20
Norwegian Cruise Line Casino

While cruise ship operators boast specific rules and regulations for their employees, they are still under the supervision of the CLIA’s policy. For example, there are internal controls in addition to the types of casino games to play. All CLIA members should only allow adults to gamble in their facilities. All gambling machines and tables must be inspected by an internal audit team that does not exceed 12 months. Onboard casinos must also detail their internal control procedures, covering cash management and casino cage procedures. And to comply with these general policies, casinos must use surveillance tools to ensure fairness and equity.

As a general rule, crews are not allowed to gamble in the casino. 

And If They Are Off-Duty?

MSC Poesia pool deck
MSC Poesia pool deck

If they’re off duty and are a guest on the ship or a passenger, generally crew members are still not allowed to gamble on the ship where they work. 

Cruise lines typically enforce strict regulations concerning the involvement of their staff in such activities even during their off-duty hours onboard. These rules commonly forbid crew members from gambling within their workplace casino, on any ship under the same brand, or even within the larger corporate entity that owns the cruise line. 

Also, a wife or a husband of a crew member is typically not allowed to gamble onboard a cruise ship if they accompany their spouses. This rule may apply to all the relatives traveling with staff on duty.

In some cases crew members who want to gamble or enjoy leisure time can do it informally, when off duty, playing not in a casino, but against other crew members. Still, this informal activity can vary depending on the cruise line’s policies and regulations.  While private poker or other games in the crew quarters may be allowed, it’s essential to be aware and adhere to the specific rules and guidelines set by the cruise line regarding crew activities and gambling.

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