Inflight Casinos: Good Idea or Bad News?

17 Mar 17 9 Comments

I am moving this week so I have another guest post for you. There have been a few references on Fear of Landing about inflight entertainment and whether or not in-flight casinos are an obvious next step or a problem to be avoided at all costs. So I hope you will enjoy Dan Saymour’s article considering the subject.

The casino industry has never been a stranger to innovation. Whether it’s introducing new games or gambling technologies, like online and mobile gambling, or embracing new security innovations and tools for identifying scammers on the casino floor, gaming operators are a canny bunch. There has even been the introduction of live casinos, with the premise that it’s like playing in a real casino from the comfort of your own home. Many big brands have even taken this a step further with major players like 888 and partycasino looking to add to their existing live casino with a virtual reality casino array of games. But with so much of the development in recent years focusing on the technology side, it now seems as if there might be a new emerging space on the horizon – or perhaps more accurately, some 30,000 feet above it.

Take it one step further.

Inflight casinos could be the next big thing, taking gambling literally to a whole new level. At least, that’s the verdict of two French aviation designers. AirJet Designs and Designescene usually focus on designing aircraft interiors for a more luxurious flying experience.

But with their foray into inflight casinos, their teams could be set to shape the future of luxury aviation, and casino gambling, in one fell swoop. So what might their vision for a casino in the sky actually look like, and is this a good idea, or a step too far for these respective industries?

The Idea

In October 2016, two employees at these design houses first floated their concept for an on-board casino, designed to reflect, in their own words, the glamour of “James Bond movies”. Their casino area features a bar and seating area, plus a blackjack table for those looking to pass the hours on long-haul flights. At present, there are no takers for the idea, but the duo remain in discussions with several major international airlines about the potential of incorporating the design on several key routes.

The casino design is understated, and doesn’t sprawl across the plane as might be expected. It’s a compact layout, with a very modest selection of games likely to be available. But the idea will no doubt appeal to some travellers, particularly those with both time and money to burn on transatlantic or oceanic flights.

Why Inflight Casinos Could Be The Best Thing Ever

Picture the scene – you’re flying to Las Vegas from the UK. The most direct route from Heathrow will get you there in 11 hours, with 20 minutes to spare. That’s a long time for anyone to look forward to a flutter. But if there was a casino on the plane, wouldn’t you be tempted to gamble on board?

And it’s not just an idea that would work for flights to Las Vegas. The French design duo themselves feel the idea could be worked into a range of different routes, providing a form of entertainment for passengers as they travel. However, while the idea may have legs, it’s not the first time someone’s tried to put air travel and casino gambling together. And the results haven’t always been overwhelmingly positive.

The Downsides

SwissAir was one of the first airlines to experiment with gambling in-flight, when they introduced gambling software onto their flights back in the 90s. Passengers were given the option to gamble on a number of classic casino games, like poker, blackjack, and keno.

In 1998, however, things took a turn for the worse. Sylvia wrote about an incident on a SwissAir plane carrying gambling software and the fault was in part attributed to the software powering the in-flight entertainment. It wasn’t long before SwissAir decided to remove the software from all of their flights, as a security precaution as much as anything else.

Virgin and RyanAir have also looked into inflight gambling at various times over the last decade or so, with neither carrying the idea to fruition. And when you consider the potential for some passengers to get aggressive or violent, particularly when alcohol-fuelled, and perhaps more likely when facing an unexpected financial loss, it seems that the idea isn’t without its risks.

Of course, these problems exist in land-based casinos, and they are far from a reason to clamp down on the vast majority of sensible gamblers who enjoy casino gambling. But when that casino is skyborne, life and death decisions do tend to favour excessive caution over reasonableness.

Inflight casinos are clearly an idea that we could see becoming increasingly common in the years to come. But they are not without their problems, and airline operators would have to allay all imaginable concerns about gambling on board their aircraft in order for this to become a widespread reality.

For Jean-Pierre Alfano and Frederique Houssard, the French designers pushing the concept, these issues are theirs to solve. Meanwhile, the rest of us will carry on waiting till the plane touches down to get our gamble on.

Category: Miscellaneous,


  • Casinos and bookmakers are indeed very inventive when it comes to catching the ordinary punter and convincing him (or her) to part with money. Note how easy it is nowadays to start on-line gambling
    The common motivator is GREED.
    The world is full of suckers, waiting to be fleeced.
    Many already owe substantial amounts to their credit card providers.
    We need a hole in the head before we need in-flight casinos.
    I sincerely do hope that this will never be put into practice.

  • Airliner cabins are not pressurised to sea level (IIRC, it’s equivalent to 6-8000 feet altitude in most cases). Therefore, passengers who are not regular fliers and those who are in a poor state of physical fitness may feel a bit drowsy or may be unable to concentrate as well as they could at ground level. They would be more likely to make mistakes at the gaming table, giving the casino operator an even bigger advantage than usual.

    Safety concerns about passengers getting belligerent after losing their money are definitely important. So is the hazard of a large number of passengers moving around the cabin and congregating in one area, potentially blocking the aisle.

    But the airlines will also be looking at whether it would actually be profitable for them. The casino area takes up space, so does it bring in more revenue than the seats that would normally be in that area? They wouldn’t want to sacrifice any seats on routes that are normally fully-booked and they probably couldn’t use the casino on flights to or from countries where gambling was illegal or severely restricted. So, the casino could only be used on certain routes, and there would be a maintenance cost to install or remove it whenever the aircraft needed to be moved to a different route.

    There’s also the question of whether the publicity that might arise from the in-flight casino would bring the airline more passengers than it lost. It’s likely that very few people would choose a particular flight just because it had a casino and very few people would boycott the airline because of their opposition to gambling. But inevitably some people would lose a load of money, perhaps a holidaymaker who has a few drinks before the flight and then loses all his spending money, and that could lead to some very hostile stories in the tabloids.

    In-flight casinos may happen. But given all the risks, I suspect that they will only be provided on a small number of routes for First Class passengers who are paying a premium price to have every possible amenity available to them.

    • Those are some very good points! I find it hard to believe in-flight casinos wouldn’t be popular, as the gambling industry is very high value. But the risks and the publicity issues are very valid problems with the entire concept.

  • Andrew,
    You are making a few very good points. Most modern aircraft are capable to maintain a reasonably low cabin altitude = the cabin pressure corresponding to a pre-determined assumed outside air pressure in which humans are able to breathe and function normally.
    Building an aircraft in which cabin pressure remains equal to that at sea level will of course make them too heavy and uneconomical.
    Most people will function normally at the cabin altitude that prevails in an aircraft, otherwise the crew would suffer from symptoms that are similar to being drunk. The limit is agreed to be around 10.000 feet.
    So I do not really think that the large majority of passengers’ rational behaviour will be affected unless they are intoxicated. In less dense air, the effect of alcohol consumption is increased exponentially.
    Air travel is intended to bring people from A to B.
    Airlines are looking for ways to increase revenue so that they will be able to continue to offer low fares and offset the inevitable rise in the price of oil. Already there is a war of words between scientists and oil companies. Scientists argue that all deposits of crude oil are known and that the peak has been reached already. The current glut of oil is not proof that there is more oil available, it just means that the oil companies keep pumping at rates that in less than 20, perhaps even 10 years will be unsustainable unless the world switches to other sources like shale and “fracking”. Which means increasing cost and decreasing quality.
    The oil companies argue that there is a lot more oil still and that peak production will not be reached for another 50 years, perhaps even more.
    Whoever is right is irrelevant. Sylvia’s link to the Swissair accident refers to the installation of equipment that had been retrofitted, not installed by the aircraft’s manufacturers. A hard lesson that will positively affect the safety of aircraft if they are going to be fitted with in-flight gambling facilities.
    But do we really want to subject air passengers to this temptation? Already casinos offer a free amount of start-up chips for people who want to gamble on-line. Some will lose a lot, others may get wise and walk away.
    And here is what I personally find objectionable: a passenger in an aircraft is not able to walk away, at least not until the system is shut down because the flight is nearing destination.
    What about the guy who, after losing a lot of money, finally has a winning hand allowing him the chance to make good, only to see the system shut down because the flight is about to land?
    How about the passenger who sees his bets ruined because, just as he is making a critical decision to deal, is disturbed by an announcement from the captain? I am of the opinion that: 1. There is already far too much opportunity to start gambling in the home environment and 2. It should not have a place in commercial aircraft.
    Andrew paints a picture of misery in the example where a holiday maker gambles away all his (or her, of course) spending money before they even reach their destination. And perhaps a large chunk of their month’s earnings as well.
    The world economy is kept afloat on a large reservoir of personal debt.
    Do we really want to create a situation where even more of the world’s fortune is allowed to be creamed off and into the pockets of ruthless casino owners? Because in the end they will always win. That is why the Mafia invested an enormous amount of money in casinos.
    I stick with my original view: In flight gambling? NO WAY !

    • Not being able to walk away (or be rescued by friends and family looking after you) is a very good point, as is the question of being cut off just when you are SURE you are going to win. I can’t see that going well. I also liked Andrew’s points of the holiday maker losing all of his money before arriving at his destination (although casinos in the airport are no better in this regard).

  • Something I overlooked in my response to Andrew: it seemed that he envisages a casino where players (= suckers who cannot wait to be fleeced !!) come to a gambling table in a separate area of the aircraft.
    I doubt that his will be happening. I also doubt that casino owners and airlines will be satisfied investing large sums of money solely for the benefit of the first- or business class passengers.
    Already casinos and bookmakers are very active promoting on-line gambling. They draw newcomers in by offering an initial free credit.
    This can be installed relatively easy as it can be integrated with already existing in-flight entertainment. This may be functioning in a similar way that nowadays in-flight phone calls can be made, simply by inserting a credit-, debit- or bank card in a slot. Or using the account number with a PIN code to gain access. Very simple.
    Gaming machines can work in the same manner, in which case problems with rows between passengers do not pose the same hazard. I think that in-flight gambling will take place individually, from the passenger’s seat. It will be easy to block use by the cabin crew, using the passenger manifest it should be simple to disable a station at the seat of a minor. Or, alternatively, unblock a gambling station.
    This will be the future, rather than a “real” casino. It will not require sacrificing passenger seats and it will keep gamblers separate.
    And this is exactly what I fear: it will promote a culture of gambling and betting, anywhere, anytime. What will be next? Gaming machines in buses, trains, taxis? It will have the potential to disrupt the lives of many, destroy families and saddle many with crippling debts.
    In-flight gambling? NO, no way ! I’d rather see the price of my airplane ticket go up.

    • I agree, I would expect to see video gambling available from the seat – the online industry has already made this work and already has a lot of experience in setting up the interface. Trying to create a physical location on the aircraft would mean a lot of trial and error for very little financial benefit.

  • Another consideration: Suppose one of the crew, even the pilot, has a gambling addiction? Normally, this would be a “character issue” which might affect their financial trustworthiness… but bringing the casino onto the plane turns it into an immediate and present distraction….

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