Gambling ship

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This article is about a ship on which gambling takes place. For the film, see Gambling Ship.
Palm Beach Princess

A gambling ship was a barge or other large vessel used to house a casino and often other venues of entertainment. Under the old three-mile limit of territorial waters they were anchored usually just over three nautical miles off the United States coastline to avoid governmental interference. Organized crime was frequently involved in their operation.

Some state governments later tried to control the effect of gambling ships through the use of convoluted statutes.[1] When territorial waters were redefined to 12 nm, this made the prospect of maintaining a gambling ship by any means extremely impractical.

Gambling ships in California[edit]

In 1928, the lumber schooner Johanna Smith was converted to a gambling ship and moored off Long Beach, California. She caught fire and sunk in 1932.[2]

On New Year's Day 1937, during the Great Depression, the gambling ship SS Monte Carlo, known for "drinks, dice, and dolls," was shipwrecked on the beach about a quarter mile south of the Hotel del Coronado, near San Diego.[3]

Californian gambling ships appear in several novels of the period, including Sing a Song of Murder (1942) by James R Langham and The Case of the Dangerous Dowager (1937) by Erle Stanley Gardner.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CAL. PEN. CODE § 11300
  2. ^ Information on the wreck "Johanna Smith". California Wreck Divers. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  3. ^ Graham, David E (Jan 2, 2007). "Busting the House: Casino Boat Drashed into Coronado 70 Years Ago". SignOnSanDiego (San Diego: Union Tribune). Retrieved Mar 19, 2011.