Originally posted in Gaming floor August 1999
Onboard Gaming
How the cruise ships promote their casinos

    Casino gaming is indeed a global industry, and one very important part of it are the casinos onboard the worlds cruise ships. In recent years as the size of the average new build has increased in tonnage so has the size allotted to the onboard gaming area.

    The Caribbean continues to be the most popular destination of choice for Americans, easily reached in around 2 days, this leaves 3 additional days on a seven day cruise itinerary to visit the islands. Importantly this also gives 7 gaming sessions of varying duration.

    Fuel costs have been falling now for a number of years and with salary costs onboard kept to a minimum  the price of taking a cruise has also fallen substantially. For all the cruise lines, onboard revenue is vitally important. The bars, gift shops, shore excursions and casino all having targets to achieve in RPPD (Revenue per passenger day).

    With this in mind, you would then think that the casino would be pushed to the front of the advertising literature & online information, but, that is not the case. Looking at the web sites of Carnival, RCCL, Princess and NCL the space allotted, style and placement of the casino information is if anything, subdued. Food and entertainment get the star treatment along with glorious pictures of the destinations and what is to be found on arrival. The Gym and health spa's also get good coverage that would seem out of context with the revenue they generate.

    Perhaps the reason for the relegation of the casino to being just a part of the entertainment experience onboard is that while most customers expect there to be a casino onboard, it will rarely affect the actual choice of a customer when he/she takes out the credit card to book.

    Although the revenue generated each cruise by the casino is substantial, cruise lines are always concerned about the perception of the line by their customers and the passenger comment cards are carefully analysed after each cruise. Customer service is always more important than simply wiping out the player. This also works out better from the dealers point of view as happy cruisers are always more inclined to tip and continue to play.

    Revenue generated from the shipboard casinos week on week tends to be very consistent when compared to land based casinos. Most cruise gamblers are not big players and being on vacation are working within a budget. It is unusual to have a  large enough winner to affect the percentage hold on the tables. On the slots, a close sequence of jackpots is the only thing that may dent the figures for the week.

    Themed cruises can have an effect on revenue. This is because of the type of customer who has been attracted onboard and also because of the extra activities that may have been arranged. Sports themed cruises are usually good earners, music, not so good.

    The onboard casinos a few years ago were  run by concessions but are in most cases now "in house". What is surprising is for how long the cruise lines were giving 30/40 or even 50% away before they realized they could do the job themselves. Recruitment of staff for the operation is also usually done in house but specialist agencies are used by some lines.

    The following pictures are taken from the the cruise line Web sites. The links will open a new browser window
Carnival Roulette
Looks like a double ended AR. Classy photo with good depth. The emphasis on "Fun" to be expected from Carnival.


Princess Casino
Princess portray a very upmarket ambience & atmosphere, the British pedigree perhaps. 
And quess what ladies are lucky again!.


NCL chips
Over at Norwegian Cruise Line no live gaming in the casino section of the website, but a good photo of their "Deco" Norway chips.


     The lone small photo on the RCCL site was of a happy couple that had apparently hit the Royal Flush at CSP (happens all the time!). But still the promotion of the casino was low key.

    So. The big players can afford to be relaxed about plugging the gaming onboard. One days trading of their stock on the markets adds up to a far greater sum than the casino could ever win in a day. Public perception and reputation are paramount in the executives minds and as long as those figures week on week are consistent, little pressure is placed on the staff.
   Sadly for those on the gaming floor in other not so glamorous parts of the world, not all casinos are the same.

Ian Sutton
6 years afloat

     In a future article we will have a look at the day ships. A winning & successful casino for them is everything. Their very existence with high daily costs, depends upon getting punters onboard, keeping the games moving, and hoping they come back.