Bermuda Authorities Seize Gambling Machines From Luxury Ship

The captain of a luxury yacht was in police custody in this British Caribbean territory on Saturday after his arrest on suspicion of breaching the island's anti-gaming laws.

Police and customs officers raided the 196-foot Panamanian-registered vessel on Friday while it was moored off Bermuda's coast. Authorities arrested the captain, whose name and nationality were not disclosed, and seized numerous gaming machines, computers and documents.

Llewellyn Peniston, attorney for the ship's owner, Estrellas Management Ltd., told The Royal Gazette newspaper that the captain was arrested on suspicion of bringing gaming machines into the island's territory, some 602 miles from the United States in the mid-Atlantic.

Bermuda lawmakers banned gaming machines in 2001, arguing the coin-operated devices, which simulate games of chance such as poker or blackjack, were driving some islanders into debt. Machine operators can face fines of $250,000 and five years in prison under the law, which went into effect July 2004.

Casinos with table games are banned in Bermuda, as are gaming machines. However, certain betting activities, such as sports betting pools, are permitted.

Peniston said the casino ship had not been hosting gamblers since it entered the island's territorial waters on July 24. He said the vessel could legally get around Bermuda's gaming prohibition by operating some 12 miles offshore in international waters.

He said the Friday raid was "an attempt by certain political elements to claim the moral high ground" and accused the government of "double standards and hypocrisy" for its anti-gambling stance.

Last year, customs officers stopped the boat for failure to pay duty. An injunction halted that action.