Cruise ships calling in at Western Australia will be able to open their casinos after the state government lifted restrictions.

The move is designed to protect and grow an industry already pumping $275 million into the State’s economy.

It leaves Western Australia as the only state where onboard casinos can open with 12 nautical miles of the coastline – a regulation which was supposed to prevent gambling “cruises to nowhere” and protect land-base casinos with greater overheads.

The changes required an agreement from James Packer’s Crown which has exclusive rights to operate casinos within 200km of Perth.

It was unclear whether WA’s lone stance will now be joined by others or whether the move was linked to the large number of Asian cruisers who use the state as the start point of holidays because of its proximity to Singapore.

Premier Colin Barnett made the announcement at the 2016 WA Tourism Conference last week.

“Cruise ships are crucial to growing the State’s tourism industry.  The number of cruise ships coming to Fremantle has more than tripled since 2012-13 when 17 ships brought 49,000 passengers to the port city.  In 2015-16, 58 ships berthed at Fremantle with 152,000 passengers,” he said.
“Lifting these gaming restrictions will make the State more attractive as a destination for cruise companies, which generate more than A$275 million for the local economy.”

In 2011, the agreement was amended to allow the ships to operate casino gambling within 12 nautical miles offshore.

Mr Barnett, who is also the Tourism Minister, did not propose to change the rules that ban cruise ships from running casinos while docked.

The WA Premier also said that ships with a capacity greater than 100 passengers were allowed to operate the casinos.

“What we wouldn’t allow was a sham operation, a ship that just goes out to the back of Rottnest, puts an anchor down and has a casino running,” Mr Barnett said earlier this year.

“I think if people go on a cruise, they expect there to be a casino, they expect it to be open, and why not?”

He also said that cruise operators lobbied heavily for Western Australia to lift the ban.

Cruise lines are sending more and more of their ships to Western Australia – Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas will be arriving in December, Holland America’s ms Maasdam will be making her inaugural call to Fremantle and luxury ships like the Silver Whisper and Queen Mary 2 will also be making calls to the area.