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Deal Me In


Murky waters when gambling at sea

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 USA cruise ships the opportunity to offer games once hitting international waters.

The gambling laws for land-based casinos are cut and dry. It is 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 US land-based casino market. Cruise ships operate in international waters and are not bound by land-based casino regulations.

If you happen to have 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 receive? 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…”


If it weren’t for “suckers,” there wouldn’t be any good bets

Dear Mark: I confess that I have hardly ever gambled. Although I have been in casinos on occasion, I never even dropped a coin in a one-armed bandit. I did play poker when I was young.  

In 1953 or 1954, I can't quite recall the exact year, while in the army in Korea, our unit was on alert to go to Vietnam to help the French who were catching hell from the Vietnamese. We were at the embarkation point for almost two days. A big boat with its front end opened waited to take us into another type of hell. We played poker. Over a 12 hours period I won eighteen hundred dollars and then lost it all save ten bucks. We never boarded that ship.  

I guess the generals and politicians figured the French were on their own. I was a private, so they never thought to ask me how I felt. I remember someone telling me then (I think it was my platoon Sargent) that when you gamble with someone who knows the game better than you, it isn't a fair game. He said “it would be better to put your dollars in a pile and set them on fire. At least your hands would be warm.” Which brings me to the third point: your marvelous article concerning "Horn, Yo bets aren't good for anyone."  

I watched many a crap game both in the army and as a civilian among my rather duplicitous friends. I was always amazed at how fast the action was and how the suckers constantly lost their money to the better players.  

Your articles should be made into a bible for any idiot contemplating the eclectic game of craps. Mike M.


I appreciate Mike, both your gambling narrative and the different timeline you could have experienced regarding the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Fortuitously, you didn’t have to go on a “three-hour tour,” à la Gilligan’s Island.

Most believe the genesis of the conflict was in 1955 when President Eisenhower sent the first military advisors to South Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army. In reality, it was in 1950 that the first shipment of American military aid was sent to the French colonial administration in Vietnam.

As for the game of craps, yes, Mike, it’s “eclectic,” but wide-ranging enough to offer some richly enjoyable entertainment, as well as three outstanding wagers to boot that I wouldn’t want readers to shun from their betting repertoire. The pass and come line bets, the preceding wagers with odds, and placing the 6 or 8 all have a casino advantage of under 1.5%.

Unquestionably, Mike, I will forever preach staying clear from those proposition bets (the Yo and Horn, hardways, field bets, etc.) as some can have a house advantage as high as 16%. Avoiding the above will make you look like an expert amongst your “duplicitous” associates.

As for suckers, I believe Amarillo Slims said it best: “If you sit down at a game and don’t see a sucker, get up. You’re the sucker.”

I have always looked at the “easy mark” in a slightly different way. If it weren’t for “suckers” fattening the casino purse, the house would make the rules more unfavorable for the shrewd player.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Nothing is so unpredictable as a throw of the dice, and yet every man who plays often will at some time, or other, make a Venus-cast: now and then indeed he will make it twice and even thrice is succession.” – Cicero (106-43 B.C.) De Divinatione