Officials in Western Australia spent more than a year debating gambling legislation. All other Australia states and territories rely heavily on gambling – especially pokies – to generate revenue. In January 2016, it was decided that WA would not follow in the footsteps of other Australian territories to fill their coffers by placing poker machines in pubs, clubs, hotels, etc. However, they did approve casino gambling cruises off the state’s coast.
The gambling legislation was approved in August 2016. A long-standing ban that prevents casino cruise gambling in WA waters was lifted, effective immediately. To make things a bit more entertaining, a ban against alcoholic beverages being served by tourism businesses was abolished at the same time.
As of now, casino cruise gambling is legal off the shores of Western Australia, provided the ships adhere to some very specific restrictions.
Restrictions on WA Casino Gambling Cruises
As far as types of gambling go, anything currently permitted in Western Australia’s major land-based casino, Crown Perth, is fair game. This covers the full gambit of typical casino amusements, like pokies, table games, poker, etc.
Casino gambling cruises won’t be able to operate at all times in WA water, though. Gambling may not take place when coming into port, at dock, or during departure. The ship must be in ‘deep water’, at a distance of no less than 12 nautical miles from land.
In addition, the casino cruise ships must be capable of accommodating at least 100 passengers, and must have a 100+ passenger load on board when any gambling is conducted. These ships can traverse interstate and international locations, but may not simply leave port, dock 12+ miles out, and return a few hours or even days later.
According to the new rules, gambling cruise ships must have more purpose than gambling alone. The casino aspect may only be an ancillary, or supplemental, service—not a primary one. Such gambling cruises, commonly referred to as ‘floating casinos‘, are still banned by WA gambling law.
Prior to the passage of the new legislation, all casino cruise ships were required to shut down all gambling services while traveling through WA waters.
Casino Gambling Cruises Boon for Tourism
According to former WA Minister of WA Racing and Gaming, Terry Waldron (who retired in January 2017), the multitude of restrictions in the casino cruise law is to prevent ‘floating casinos’ from popping up, just to circumvent existing land-based gambling laws.
WA is the strictest of all Australian states and territories when it comes to casino-style wagering. There are only three gambling destinations in the state, including Crown Perth, and two horse racing tracks, Ascot Racecourse and Belmont Park Racecourse. The government remains steadfast in its commitment to keep pokies out of other establishments, despite the high rate of revenue they bring in for other parts of Australia.
Then-Premier Colin Barnett, who spent much of his 8 ½ years in the seat focusing on economic development, justified the legalization of casino cruise gambling. He told reporters lat year that cruise lines are an important feature in the overall tourism industry, and something WA had to tap further into.
Cruise companies were already generating hundreds of millions of dollars into WA’s economy prior to the expansion bill. It should be exciting to see what the figures look like in the next fiscal examination, post-legalization of casino cruise gambling.