Florida’s gambling ships which were doing brisk business just a couple of years ago, are facing dark times.  The recession has cut down people’s spending power, and new rules now allow land-based casinos to offer the same games that were available only on gambling boats.

Since Governor Charles Crist allowed land based casinos to offer black jack, baccarat and other games, there has been a reverse flood of patrons from the floating casinos to the land-based ones. The gambling boats have even more concerns in store. Port Canaveral officials have been indicated that in future, these vessels will have to be docked at the Jetty Park. Port officials want to free up space at the Port for additional development. Already two of the gambling ships that had to move to the Jetty Park have shut down operations.

As maritime lawyers, we know the kind of impact the economic downturn has had on the maritime industry. Shipping companies have sailed into troubled financial waters, and cutbacks have been seen in several sectors.  We are concerned about how these financial problems will impact the workers on these boats. With no news yet about when the industry will recover, it’s highly likely that workers’ safety and health will be compromised, as companies scramble to tighten budgets.

Does a Casino Boat Qualify as a Jones Act Vessel?

Casino boats may qualify as Jones Act vessels if they actually move on navigable waters, and are not permanently moored to a dock. Workers on these boats may also qualify as Jones Act seamen, if they meet three basic criteria – they must be assigned to a vessel, the vessel must be in navigation, and the worker must contribute significantly to the mission of the vessel.

In contrast, casino boats that are permanently moored to a dock and are connected to land-based utilities, and where owners and operators don’t plan to put them to sail any time soon, may not qualify as Jones Act vessels. One of the primary conditions of the Jones Act is that the vessel that the seamen are assigned to must be in navigation. There has been some debate what the term “navigation”  means, but several judicial decisions have gone against workers who were on moored casino boats. Floating casino boats however, would be a different story.

The maritime attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represent injured workers on casino boats, freighters, tankers, jack up and semi submersible rigs, cruise liners, and other maritime employees who may qualify as Jones Act seamen.  Please contact us at [email protected] with any questions about maritime law, offshore injuries or status as a seaman.