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Cruises to Nowhere: Gambling Ship Act

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Posted: March 6, 2005

Text of U.S. Gambling Ship Act, 18 U.S.C. 1081

1081. Definitions

As used in this chapter:

The term “gambling ship ” means a vessel used principally for the operation of one or more gambling establishments. Such term does not include a vessel with respect to gambling aboard such vessel beyond the territorial waters of the United States during a covered voyage (as defined in section 4472 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as in effect on January 1, 1994).

[[Internal Revenue Code Section 4472 provides: 

(A) In general

The term "covered voyage " means a voyage of -

(i) a commercial passenger vessel which extends over 1 or more nights, or

(ii) a commercial vessel transporting passengers engaged in gambling aboard the vessel beyond the territorial waters of the United States, during which passengers embark or disembark the vessel in the United States.

Such term shall not include any voyage on any vessel owned or operated by the United States, a State, or any agency or subdivision thereof.

(B) Exception for certain voyages on passenger vessels The term "covered voyage" shall not include a voyage of a passenger vessel of less than 12 hours between 2 ports in the United States.]]

The term “gambling establishment ” means any common gaming or gambling establishment operated for the purpose of gaming or gambling, including accepting, recording, or registering bets, or carrying on a policy game or any other lottery, or playing any game of chance, for money or other thing of value.

The term “vessel” includes every kind of water and air craft or other contrivance used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, or on water and in the air, as well as any ship, boat, barge, or other water craft or any structure capable of floating on the water.

The term “American vessel ” means any vessel documented or numbered under the laws of the United States; and includes any vessel which is neither documented or numbered under the laws of the United States nor documented under the laws of any foreign country, if such vessel is owned by, chartered to, or otherwise controlled by one or more citizens or residents of the United States or corporations organized under the laws of the United States or of any State.

The term “wire communication facility ” means any and all instrumentalities, personnel, and services (among other things, the receipt, forwarding, or delivery of communications) used or useful in the transmission of writings, signs, pictures, and sounds of all kinds by aid of wire, cable, or other like connection between the points of origin and reception of such transmission.

1082. Gambling ships

 (a) It shall be unlawful for any citizen or resident of the United States, or any other person who is on an American vessel or is otherwise under or within the jurisdiction of the United States, directly or indirectly—

(1) to set up, operate, or own or hold any interest in any gambling ship or any gambling establishment on any gambling ship; or

(2) in pursuance of the operation of any gambling establishment on any gambling ship, to conduct or deal any gambling game, or to conduct or operate any gambling device, or to induce, entice, solicit, or permit any person to bet or play at any such establishment,

if such gambling ship is on the high seas, or is an American vessel or otherwise under or within the jurisdiction of the United States, and is not within the jurisdiction of any State.

(b) Whoever violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

(c) Whoever, being

(1) the owner of an American vessel, or

(2) the owner of any vessel under or within the jurisdiction of the United States, or

(3) the owner of any vessel and being an American citizen,

shall use, or knowingly permit the use of, such vessel in violation of any provision of this section shall, in addition to any other penalties provided by this chapter, forfeit such vessel, together with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, to the United States.

1083. Transportation between shore and ship; penalties

(a) It shall be unlawful to operate or use, or to permit the operation or use of, a vessel for the carriage or transportation, or for any part of the carriage or transportation, either directly or indirectly, of any passengers, for hire or otherwise, between a point or place within the United States and a gambling ship which is not within the jurisdiction of any State. This section does not apply to any carriage or transportation to or from a vessel in case of emergency involving the safety or protection of life or property.

(b) The Secretary of the Treasury shall prescribe necessary and reasonable rules and regulations to enforce this section and to prevent violations of its provisions.

For the operation or use of any vessel in violation of this section or of any rule or regulation issued hereunder, the owner or charterer of such vessel shall be subject to a civil penalty of $200 for each passenger carried or transported in violation of such provisions, and the master or other person in charge of such vessel shall be subject to a civil penalty of $300. Such penalty shall constitute a lien on such vessel, and proceedings to enforce such lien may be brought summarily by way of libel in any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof. The Secretary of the Treasury may mitigate or remit any of the penalties provided by this section on such terms as he deems proper.

1084. Transmission of wagering information; penalties

(a) Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of information for use in news reporting of sporting events or contests, or for the transmission of information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest from a State or foreign country where betting on that sporting event or contest is legal into a State or foreign country in which such betting is legal.

(c) Nothing contained in this section shall create immunity from criminal prosecution under any laws of any State.

(d) When any common carrier, subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, is notified in writing by a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, acting within its jurisdiction, that any facility furnished by it is being used or will be used for the purpose of transmitting or receiving gambling information in interstate or foreign commerce in violation of Federal, State or local law, it shall discontinue or refuse, the leasing, furnishing, or maintaining of such facility, after reasonable notice to the subscriber, but no damages, penalty or forfeiture, civil or criminal, shall be found against any common carrier for any act done in compliance with any notice received from a law enforcement agency. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prejudice the right of any person affected thereby to secure an appropriate determination, as otherwise provided by law, in a Federal court or in a State or local tribunal or agency, that such facility should not be discontinued or removed, or should be restored.

(e) As used in this section, the term “State ” means a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a commonwealth, territory or possession of the United States.

Text of Transportation, Repair and Use of Gambling Devices Provision of Johnson Act, 15 USC 1175

Sec. 1175. Specific jurisdictions within which manufacturing, repairing, selling, possessing, etc., prohibited; exceptions

(a) General rule

It shall be unlawful to manufacture, recondition, repair, sell, transport, possess, or use any gambling device in the District of Columbia, in any possession of the United States, within Indian country as defined in section 1151 of title 18 or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States as defined in section 7 of title 18, including on a vessel documented under chapter 121 of title 46 or documented under the laws of a foreign country.

(b) Exception

(1) In general

Except for a voyage or a segment of a voyage that begins and ends in the State of Hawaii, or as provided in paragraph (2), this section does not prohibit -

(A) the repair, transport, possession, or use of a gambling device on a vessel that is not within the boundaries of any State or possession of the United States;

(B) the transport or possession, on a voyage, of a gambling device on a vessel that is within the boundaries of any State or possession of the United States, if -

(i) use of the gambling device on a portion of that voyage is, by reason of subparagraph (A), not a violation of this section; and

(ii) the gambling device remains on board that vessel while the vessel is within the boundaries of that State or possession; or

(C) the repair, transport, possession, or use of a gambling device on a vessel on a voyage that begins in the State of Indiana and that does not leave the territorial jurisdiction of that State, including such a voyage on Lake Michigan.

(2) Application to certain voyages

(A) General rule .  Paragraph (1)(A) does not apply to the repair or use of a gambling device on a vessel that is on a voyage or segment of a voyage described in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph if the State or possession of the United States in which the voyage or segment begins and ends has enacted a statute the terms of which prohibit that repair or use on that voyage or segment.

(B) Voyage and segment described.   A voyage or segment of a voyage referred to in subparagraph (A) is a voyage or segment, respectively -

(i) that begins and ends in the same State or possession of the United States, and

(ii) during which the vessel does not make an intervening stop within the boundaries of another State or possession of the United States or a foreign country.

(C) Exclusion of certain voyages and segments.   Except for a voyage or segment of a voyage that occurs within the boundaries of the State of Hawaii, a voyage or segment of a voyage is not described in subparagraph (B) if it includes or consists of a segment -

(i) that begins and ends in the same State;

(ii) that is part of a voyage to another State or to a foreign country; and

(iii) in which the vessel reaches the other State or foreign country within 3 days after leaving the State in which it begins.

(c) Exception for Alaska

(1) With respect to a vessel operating in Alaska, this section does not prohibit, nor may the State of Alaska make it a violation of law for there to occur, the repair, transport, possession, or use of any gambling device on board a vessel which provides sleeping accommodations for all of its passengers and that is on a voyage or segment of a voyage described in paragraph (2), except that such State may, within its boundaries -

(A) prohibit the use of a gambling device on a vessel while it is docked or anchored or while it is operating within 3 nautical miles of a port at which it is scheduled to call; and

(B) require the gambling devices to remain on board the vessel.

(2) A voyage referred to in paragraph (1) is a voyage that -

(A) includes a stop in Canada or in a State other than the State of Alaska;

(B) includes stops in at least 2 different ports situated in the State of Alaska; and

(C) is of at least 60 hours duration.