According to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help, 2.6% of adult Americans, or about 10 million people, struggle with a gambling addiction.
For them, a Princess Cruises vacation may now be a non-starter.
This week, the line announced that its first passenger placed a real-time bet using the new Ocean Sportsbook aboard the Majestic Princess. The new wagering service, which Princess has claimed is the first of its kind at sea, is available through a free app available to every guest sailing on ships that have been equipped with what the line calls MedallionClass technology. Bets are automatically charged to the passenger's account.
Now, passengers won't even have to physically go to the ship's casino to wager. A bet can be placed from anywhere on board with the app, so long as the ship is in international waters or in a region where gaming is legal—because in the United States, even though the Supreme Court cleared the way for widespread sports wagering in 2018, betting on sporting events remains illegal in many places.
Princess passengers can even wager on future professional and college sports events, even if they occur well after the vacation is over and guests are back home.
And this innovation goes beyond just sports betting. In the Princess press release, the line notes, "the new sportsbook is part of Ocean Casino—a digital experience that lets wagers be placed beyond the casino—stateroom, poolside, spa, and more—on an assortment of games that include blackjack, slots, poker, roulette, bingo, keno, and lottery."
In effect, every part of the ship is now a casino.
You'll be overhearing folks crowing over winning wagers, or (more likely) mourning bets that didn't go their way, and it will potentially follow you into the hot tub, at on-board restaurants, in the hallways, in the theaters, in the kids' clubs—everywhere on board.
I am one of the lucky people who does not have a gambling problem. But it's also not an activity I like to be around. On the occasions when I've been in casinos, I find that people can drink too much and get aggressive and rude. Not always, of course, but enough to make me feel unwelcome and steer clear of them.
For people who do have a gambling problem, I would think this new normal aboard Princess ships could make a cruise vacation too challenging to risk. There will now be nowhere to avoid gaming.
So why is Princess doing this?
I'll quote from its press release once again: "With more than $20 billion in wagers placed with U.S. sportsbooks in the past two years, sports betting is experiencing extraordinary growth, and is expected to reach more than $155 billion by 2024."
No doubt this move will be a profitable one for the line. But will it turn off others cruisers like me?
I'm betting it might.