Should Airplanes Offer Mini Casinos?

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Airplane and Slots

Airplane flights aren’t the most-exciting endeavors. Despite the meals, movies, alcoholic drinks that many airlines offer, these trips can still be boring—especially when they take hours or require multiple stops and changeovers.

Airlines could go a long ways towards making flights more enjoyable by adding casino games. Mile-high casinos would provide an exciting way to pass the time.

Of course, planes don’t offer casino gambling options now. But they would certainly benefit financially from doing so in the future.

This page discusses more on the feasibility of airplane casinos along with why airlines should consider this idea more seriously.

Airports Offer Casinos—Why Not Airplanes?

Planes may not feature casino games right now. However, certain airports around the world do you feature slot machines.

McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas provides a perfect example of this. It boasts 1,300 slots across its expansive floor.

Airport Slots

McCarran doesn’t offer any table games to go along with the slots. Nevertheless, you’ll likely find more than enough slots to enjoy.

Certain other airports throughout the world also feature gambling. That said, airports are somewhat accommodating to gaming.

However, the industry has yet to transition this tolerance to airplanes. The latter still fly with minimal entertainment options—gambling not included.

This Isn’t a New Idea

The idea of putting mini casinos on planes isn’t completely new. In fact, the concept goes all the way back to the early 1980s.

In 1981, Singapore Airlines tried slot machines for a couple of months. They made quite a bit of money from slots during the short-lived experiment.

However, they ran into a couple of key problems:

  1. The gaming area was so popular that gamblers were blocking aisleways.
  2. The lightweight machines broke down quickly.

Regarding the latter point, Singapore Airlines chose lighter slots to avoid weighing the plane down. These machines helped keep the planes more fuel-efficient, but they weren’t sturdy enough to last.

Swissair tried small gaming consoles in 1998. This airline installed small gambling screens at players’ seats.

However, tragedy struck when Swissair Flight 111 crashed and killed all 229 passengers aboard. An investigation revealed that faulty wiring in the entertainment (gaming) system caused the crash.

It would be some time before another airline floated the idea of airplane casinos. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary broke the ice in 2005 when he announced that the company would add slots. Over one and a half decades later, Ryanair still hasn’t installed slot machines on planes.

How Would Airplane Casinos Work Today?

You can see that casinos on airplanes have been a failed success so far. However, it’s been over two decades since the last attempt at running a mile-high casino.

Airlines might be better able to run a mini casino on their planes nowadays. First off, technology is better today than it was when Swissair Flight 111 went down in 1998. Technicians would likely have less trouble installing a successful entertainment system today.

The industry could really use a financial boost as well. The pandemic has caused many prominent airlines to lose billions of dollars. Slot machines would provide a way to recoup some of these losses.

Airplane Slots

It seems like only a matter of time before another airline takes a shot at a sky high casino. If so, they’ll undoubtedly look at past failures for how they can do things differently.

First off, airlines don’t necessarily have to put out slot machines. They could simply offer blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and/or other casino games.

Table games would be cheaper to install because they don’t require wiring. The only catch is that dealers would need to run the games.

Assuming airlines go the slots route, they could simply put out machines rather than laying out an intricate wiring system. Machines would help prevent any disasters like the Swissair one.

Pros of Airplane Casinos

Mini airplane casinos promise benefits to both the airlines and passengers. You can see the biggest perks to this idea below.

Extra Entertainment for Passengers

Flights aren’t the most-entertaining endeavors. You sit in relatively confined spaces and can’t connect your phone to the internet while the plane is airborne.

This lack of internet rules out online casino gambling. Therefore, you can’t just visit your favorite internet casino and play slots or table games.

Inflight slot machines and blackjack would help remedy this problem. You’d be able to place bets and enjoy gambling despite the lack of online access.

More Revenue for Airlines

As mentioned before, airlines could really use some money at this time. Due to the pandemic, the industry’s total revenue has dropped from $872 billion in 2018 to $459 billion in 2020.

A 1996 Department of Transportation study revealed that each plane could bring in an additional $1 million annually with slot machines. Their study showed this figure jumping by $1.6 million in 2020.

According to this research, a company with more planes and slots/table games stands to benefit substantially by adding casinos.

Extra Use for Frequent Flyer Miles

Most airlines offer frequent flyer miles as a reward for your loyalty. Each mile is typically worth 1.4 cents on average.

You use these miles to get free plane tickets. If airlines offered slots, though, you could also conceivably use miles for gaming too.

If you wanted to place a $5 slots spin, for example, then you could use 357 frequent flyer miles (5 / 0.014).

Cons of Airplane Casinos

Sky high casinos aren’t perfect—otherwise they’d be available right now. Below, you can see the biggest aspects that are keeping airplane casinos down.

Restrictive Laws

The previous examples of airlines with casinos involved international companies. The US doesn’t currently allow airplanes to host gambling.

In 1991, the federal government passed the US Flag Cruise Ship Competitiveness Act. This law gives cruise ships, but not planes, the right to offer casino gaming when sailing in international waters.

Congress even attached an amendment to this law that specifically prohibits US-bound planes from offering casino gaming.

Airplanes aren’t even supposed to transport defunct gambling related equipment. The government needs to remove the amendment before airplane gaming could even be considered.

Risk to Planes

Airlines would need to make upgrades to their planes before offering slot machines. In many cases, they’d have to add additional wiring.

Airplanes

I’m 99.99% sure that crews could do this job without compromising safety. Nevertheless, the risk factor would still be in the back of some passengers’ minds.

Clogged Aisleways

Airplanes feature long and narrow corridors. Therefore, the average aircraft doesn’t offer much space from side to side.

Mini casinos need to go somewhere on a plane. This somewhere would likely be the back of the airplane.

Of course, passengers seeking to use the restroom and stewardesses must travel about the plane. They’d find it hard to get through when the mini casino was busy.

Will Airlines Try Casinos Again?

The airline industry doesn’t appear in a rush to roll out casino games. This experiment has been tried a couple of times with little-to-no success.

Again, though, the last time that an airline offered casino games was in 1998. We’re now in a different era regarding technology and industry profits.

The latter is especially important in this matter.

Airlines need more revenue to get through the current shutdowns and travel restrictions, and slot machines could provide this.

This industry is also in a unique position because it has no gambling competition. Outside of the airports that people wait at before taking flights, airliners have a monopoly once gamblers are in the skies.

You aren’t supposed to use internet-capable devices while in the air. That said, you can’t enjoy online casinos during flights. Slot machines and table games would become even more appealing in this case.

Conclusion

The US and many other countries already feature plenty of gambling opportunities through land-based casinos and, in some cases, online casinos. However, the sky is one place that the gaming industry has barely touched.

You can likely expect one or more airlines to open a casino within this decade. They stand to make considerable profits by jumping into the gambling space.

Of course, there are no guarantees that this time will be different from the previous failed ventures. But I strongly believe that airplane casinos will be better received in modern times.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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