Do Cruise Ship Slots Pay Better At Certain Times?

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Because cruise ship casinos operate in International waters, there’s a lot of “conventional wisdom” that has been established over time about cruise ships that never really gets challenged. So let’s have a look at that today with our player question:

Are there certain times/days of the week in a cruise ship casino that the slots pay out more? It seems like the last night of the cruise it’s harder to hit and also during busy times. Could there be a better time to gamble and win?


People try to crack this code and have various theories about it. But let’s take a look at what rules the cruise ships are governed by (and they are governed by rules, despite what many think).

For this, we need to take a look at the Cruise Lines Industry Association – CLIA, a trade group that features all the big cruise line logos you’d expect to see participating in such a thing.

On their website, CLIA has a section about Gambling, and they affirm that all of the logos you see on that first page abide by an agreement that sees them following the regulations of land-based casinos:

CLIA’s members have adopted a policy that all equipment purchased and installed on cruise vessels will meet the regulatory standards of the Nevada Gaming Control Board or other licensed jurisdiction for payback and internal software.

Cruise Lines Industry Association Website

On the surface, this is not unusual – a lot of jurisdictions follow the lead of markets with a mature gambling industry like Nevada. And while Nevada is not the only jurisdiction (they list New Jersey as another example), this is an important thing to be aware of.

This means that there are minimum payback rules – Nevada has 75 percent as its floor for any machine, while New Jersey has 83 percent. It also means the machines it’s buying are tested for and meet the regulations of states like Nevada as well, which means like casinos in Nevada cruise ships can’t just do anything they want.

For instance, Nevada regulations have rules about how payback can be updated remotely in situations where such a scenario is possible. Regulations have all sorts of testing requirements where games get certified to meet the payouts they say they’ll provide. And so on.

Do you like to play in the casino on a cruise?

Despite the conventional wisdom about cruise ship slots, those who cruise, play, at least in those we polled on Brian Christopher’s YouTube page.

The reality is this: Cruise ship casinos have no more reason to tinker with payouts than land-based ones. They have a captured audience, so you should simply expect machines to often be set on the lower end of the payback range a game will have. But this will be the same range as land-based casinos, and some land based casinos will make the same choice. So while it won’t be any worse than your lower paying properties, it’s unlikely to be much better. And ultimately there won’t be any “best” time of day or day of the cruise to payout.

We’ve seen some anecdotal examples of payback settings when someone manages to get a picture of a slot machine with its settings showing on a cruise ship. We’ve seen penny slots at 85 percent payback, and we saw a recent example of a cruise ship that had a much higher payback on one of their machines. These are just that – anecdotal – and like land-based casinos they are not required to share the payback of their slots.

And most importantly, regardless of a payout setting, anything can happen in the short term. Jackpots are absolutely possible on the worst payback setting. So it’s still all about timing when it comes to how you do, regardless of how a casino is configured, including on a cruise ship.

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