Is Sports Betting Legal on Ships Departing from the USA?

The lure of the wide open ocean and a tranquil time away from the stresses of day-to-day life sends people flocking to cruise liners. But while you are bobbing around in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, back on land, the world of sport doesn’t stop until you get back from your holiday.

So that means you still may fancy looking at some current football tips for matches, and fancy placing a bet. But is it legal to do that from ships that are departing the USA? In many circumstances, gambling on ships is legal, but it’s not all cut and dry.

If you are heading out to take in the sun and salty air soon, but still want to keep your eye on the sports action back home, then here is all you need to know about betting while on cruise ships leaving the US.

International Waters

It is likely that the term ‘International Waters’ has crossed your path at some point in your life. It’s certainly popped up in a lot of movies, where people head to the sanctuary of international waters to play high-stakes poker games.

The label refers to what is termed as the high seas and begins 24 miles off the coast of a country. There are three zones of water according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

●     Territorial Waters: Up to a 12-mile distance out to sea, and where a country’s laws apply.

●     Contiguous Waters: This extends the jurisdiction of waters out to 24 hours, meaning that a country can, under suspicion, board ships travelling in those waters.

●     International Waters: More than 24 miles off a country’s coast, where the ship’s country of registration determines the law. Contrary to popular belief, international waters aren’t a place where there are no laws.

Flying the Flag

What country’s flag a ship sails under is the key area of gambling at sea. The gambling or betting rules you are faced with while on board, are determined by what country the ship is registered in. A good example is that while on board a ship registered in the US, you will still have to be a minimum of 21 years of age to place bets, regardless of your nationality.

Players on board a ship from the UK would get a little more leeway, as the legal betting age in the UK is lower at 18 years. Betting on UK cruise ships tends to be more lax than their US counterparts.

As for regulations, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) generally enforces regulations that are used by licensed, land-based casinos and their governing bodies. So you could, for example, expect to see Nevada or New Jersey regulations and policies used on US ships.

Hitting the Distance

Getting beyond territorial waters is the threshold, and that applies to any country. If you are leaving Miami for example, you will have to wait until your vessel reaches at least 12 miles. Once outside that range, then a ship can start to legally offer gambling and betting activities.

But after you have just cast off, therefore, you are going to have to find other things to do, like shuffleboard or catching some Instapics, so be prepared. But what about closer to shore?

Within 12 Miles

When the vessel encroaches within 12 miles of the coast of a country, the scene changes. No longer is the ship’s country of registration the determining factor – it is the rules of the country whose territorial waters it is. That’s why in most instances, when you are leaving or returning to the US, sports betting will be put on pause.

Cruising the Casinos

Casino play onboard cruise liners is hugely popular. It’s reported that there are an average of 300 slot machines per cruise ship out there. So that’s a lot of gambling machines out there floating on the waters. You will be able to tell when these are operational, as when approaching territorial waters, onboard casinos are simply going to shut up shop.

Stay Afloat

In summary, whatever country the ship is registered to will set the gambling rules, apart from when you sail into territorial waters. So the laws are ship-dependent and certainly worth checking on before you book.

It’s also advisable to check a full itinerary of your cruise so that you know roughly when you can expect gambling options to be open or closed. If in doubt at the end of the day, simply ask a member of staff for advice.

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