Celebrity Cruises deal enables passengers to gamble on the go

By Tom Stieghorst
Cruises provide guests from states without casino gambling a taste of Las Vegas at sea. Now, Celebrity Cruises will become the first cruise line to offer gaming on mobile devices, enabling passengers to get their taste without even venturing into the casino.

Celebrity has contracted with Cantor Gaming, a division of the investment house Cantor Fitzgerald, to offer a mobile gaming platform that lets guests bet on a range of casino games.

The play is virtual, but the money wagered is real. To gamble anywhere on the ship, from the Lido Deck to the confines of their stateroom, passengers simply register and fund an account at the ship's casino, then download the app onto their smartphone.

Celebrity is hoping that the app will be used in spare moments when guests aren't dressed and ready for a night in the casino, or perhaps by a guest not in the mood for a casino atmosphere.

"This state-of-the-art technology allows guests to play outside of the action-filled casino, whether relaxing by the pool, or waiting for their partner to get ready for their night of onboard dining and drinks," said Celebrity Vice President of Operations Greg Purdy.

The mobile gaming platform, available for download through the ship's WiFi system, will be offered on the five Solstice-class and four Millennium-class ships.

The Cantor Gaming app is compatible with both Apple iOS and Android software. Games that can be played include slots, table games and video poker. As with the ship's casino, virtual gaming is shut down during port calls and can only be used in international waters.

Cantor Gaming was approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission to offer mobile gaming in 2008, becoming the first company licensed to do so. It operates many of the sports-betting books at casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, although sports won't be part of the Celebrity mobile gaming app.

Mobile betting is already legal in three states, so its novelty might be diminished for residents of Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

Gambling is not a huge source of revenue for most cruise lines, and family-oriented Disney Cruise Line doesn't have casinos at all.

At Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the parent company of Celebrity, gaming and other onboard revenue contributed 27.2% of the $7.69 billion in 2012 revenue, but the amount of each onboard revenue stream is not known.

It would seem reasonable to expect that customers wagering on their phones could mean fewer patrons in the onboard casinos. But Celebrity didn't address whether the phone gambling app would be competitive with its own facilities, or whether it collects a cut of the gaming revenue from mobile gamers.

Celebrity said the new program will be available on select ships by the end of this year, and the balance of the fleet will follow, with the exception of the older Celebrity Century and specialized Celebrity Xpedition ships.
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