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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Murky waters when gambling at sea

16 January 2015

Dear Mark: You have stated that casinos are regulated to make sure that slot machines are random and honest. Who regulates the casino slot machines on cruise ships? Phillip W.

The origins of cruise ship gambling came about with the 1991 Cruise Ship Competitiveness Act, which gave U.S. cruise ships the opportunity to offer games once they hit international waters.

The gambling laws for land-based casinos are cut and dry. It's far more difficult to know who is setting and enforcing the laws at sea.

When it comes to regulation and oversight for gambling on cruise ships, there is an organization called the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) that offers “some” regulatory controls. Unfortunately, Phillip, it is nowhere near the level of the gaming control agencies in any major U.S. land-based casino market. Cruise ships operate in international waters and are not bound by land-based casino regulations.

If you happen to have some form of dispute, more than likely you will not find an ICCL gaming control agent on board. Your alternative is to speak to the casino manager, or, if unsatisfied, bring it to the attention of the hotel manager. Those, Phillip, are pretty much your resolution options.

Regulations or not, there is no need for the casino to cheat the captive masses. Your seafaring casino offers the only game in town. Competition is what raises slot payoffs. On the open water, cruise ships have none, just a confined audience.

The casino knows you are a one-timer, on a holiday, with pockets full of readily available cash that you want to piss away. The casino is NOT looking for repeat business because you’re probably never coming back.

That being the case, as a one-time player, plan on a bruising when cruising when it comes to paybacks on slot machines from these luxury liners. The payback percentages, at best, are awful.

I would recommend that you avoid playing slot machines aboard cruise ships. Besides, cruise ships offer plenty of other diversionary activities besides pulling handles. Come to think of it, Phillip, that same yanking motion is available on one of the many elliptical trainers aboard the ship. You are far better off being atop one of those machines than propped in front of a one-armed bandit.

Dear Mark: Does a slot machine know the amount of money deposited at the start of play? If so, does that have any bearing on the percentage payout received? Bev G.

Yes, Bev, a software program that runs on a slot machine knows exactly how much money you have put in. It needs to know how many credits you have involved on the next spin in order to light the Bet Max button, or any of the other options the machine has.

As for your final results, the amount of money deposited has no effect on the random number generator, and the machine doesn't care how many credits you have remaining, played or playing on the next spin. In truth, many gaming jurisdictions have specific regulations stating that the random number generator can have no influence whatsoever on the number of coins played.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “What happens on a cruise ship, ends up all over Facebook.” – Mark Pilarski, hijacked from “What happens in Vegas…”
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.