Former Cayman Islands MLA and radio talk show host Gilbert McLean is trying to gather signatures of those who support a national lottery in the Cayman Islands.
The petition will be presented to Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush within the next several weeks once it has garnered enough voter support.
Mr. McLean said he believes Mr. Bush will present the matter for a national referendum if he sees there’s enough backing for it.
‘I believe it’s possible once word gets out that we could get a couple thousand signatures,’ Mr. McLean said.
The former Cabinet minister said he’d like to model Cayman’s national lottery on the one currently conducted in the US state of Florida. That lotto gives players several other game options, like Pick Three and Pick Four, as well as the regular lottery that takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
‘That would be, to my mind, the correct way of doing it,’ Mr. McLean said.
The Bodden Town resident said he realises church groups and some Cayman lawmakers are simply opposed to legalised gambling. However, he points out that a numbers game is run illegally here now and has been for years.
‘Ten years ago the commissioner of police told us in Legislative Assembly that the numbers game was making $1 million a week here,’ Mr. McLean said. ‘People know that the Jamaican lottery is played here…there’s three lotteries being played here in Cayman.’
Similar to the Florida lotto, Mr. McLean said the government could tax the earnings of winners – more if winnings are taken all at once; less if they’re paid out over a specified period of time.
Mr. McLean suggested that as much as 40 per cent of winners’ earnings could be taken by government.
The petition being circulated is more of an advisory document than any attempt to force government’s hand. Under Cayman’s new Constitution, which takes effect 6 November, voters are allowed to present a petition to government that requires a particular matter to be taken up, if a prescribed number of signatures have been collected.
However, the threshold to approve a voter-initiated referendum is quite high. Such a referendum would need 50 per cent plus one vote of all registered voters to cast their ballots in favour of the petition for it to pass.
Assuming 14,500 voters in the Cayman Islands at the time of a referendum, half would be 7,251 ballots cast in favour. If only 10,000 voters turned up to the polls, the petition would need nearly a 73 per cent approval rate.
Mr. McLean said he doesn’t wish to take that step.
‘I want to do it the old-fashioned way,’ he said. ‘It’s not a matter of forcing them; it’s just a matter of putting this forward.’