After an ongoing investigation of several months federal prosecutors have accused a cruise ship company, Diamond Casino Cruise of carrying out illegal gambling activity on board the casino boat, the Diamond Royale. The indictment claims that the illegal gambling took place while the boat was operating its casino in the coastal waters off the states of Georgia and South Carolina. Gambling is banned in these states so therefore it is also forbidden while the cruise ship is within the states’ coastal waters.
It is legal to gamble on cruise ships. Under maritime law the gambling laws on a ship are governed by the laws of the country whose flag the ship is flying. However if the ship docks in a country it must respect the gambling laws operating in that country or state. This is where the problem with the Savannah, Georgia based ship the Diamond Royale, began since it is claimed the casino ship, while it was within the states’ territorial waters, did not observe the state law which bans gambling. The accusation is that the casino on board either carried out all its gambling activity during cruises within coastal waters or else it did not stop gambling activity aboard once it left international waters. Territorial waters begin twelve miles distant from the shore while any nearer than this to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, there should not have been any casino gambling activity on the casino boat.The indictment in the United States District Court lists the general manager of Diamond Casino and two captains of the companies’ boats of carrying out an illegal gambling operation. The owners and operators of the casino ship, Marine Charters and Diamond Casino Cruise were also listed in the indictment. These companies could have to pay a fine of up to 500 000dollars if convicted and the general manager and the ships’ captains could face fines of 250 000 dollars along with a possible prison sentence of up to five years if convicted. Prosecutors claim that over a 16 month period up to November 2011, the casino operation made over 7 million dollars as proceeds of illegal gambling and they wish to recover this amount. It has also been claimed that the casino boat involved may be seized by the authorities. Both federal and state authorities were involved in the investigation. The Diamond Royale offered players roulette, blackjack, poker, craps and slot machines in its onboard casino.