Letters to the Editor: Define what gambling is

This letter is in response to the
very well written article, published by the Compass and written by John Flatley
on Thursday, 22 July.

The writer based his reflections on
comments made by “at least one popular talk show host” on the issue or more
correctly, the definition of gambling and came to the conclusion that there are
those exclusive groups who are fit and proper to engage in gambling, on the
basis that their true objective is “wholesome and of the benefit to others” and
“to improve the Church’s youth programme”. 

Before we begin, let us simply
acknowledge and confirm a few things. Firstly, although the writer did not
refer to Cayman Crosstalk or its hosts’ by name, we think it is fair to assume
he was talking to us. Not only has this conversation originated from our
programme, with regular commentary and debate had on it, but also a petition
written, organised, distributed and delivered to the Government by co-host Mr.
Gilbert McLean, leads us to conclude the writer was making reference to our
programme and its hosts.

Although we are a little
disappointed that Mr. Flately did not feel comfortable offering up his counter
viewpoint directly to the media in which the discussion has largely been based,
we believe that all of our discussions on Cayman Crosstalk, are the property of
the people we serve, namely the citizens of the Cayman Islands. As such, we are
delighted that important discussions are now taking place island-wide, with
people talking to each other and talking out. That is a good thing and has
always been our ultimate objective.

Secondly, so that the petition
itself, presented to the Government for consideration, not be perverted or
taken out of context, which in some cases it already has, we provide the following
statement on the Intent of the petition and its’ question. It states as
follows: –

Be it resolved that we the
undersigned voters of the Cayman Islands request that Government hold a
referendum at the earliest possible time to determine whether the public would
accept the introduction of a national lottery on a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.

Be it further resolved that if the
majority of the voters voting in the referendum should vote ‘yes, the
Government would forthwith take steps to establish a national lottery in the
Cayman Islands, using the Florida Lottery as a model including the other daily
variations of gaming conducted by this entity in its jurisdiction.

Thirdly, we say to the Church that
this discussion in no way seeks to unfairly criticise the valuable and
absolutely necessary work that as an institution, it provides. Instead only to
promote intelligent debate on important issues, without fear or reluctance to
challenge, at times, even the Church.

Mr. Flately suggests in his article
that a raffle, hosted by a church is OK because the gambler is not buying it
with the expectation or hope of reward, but instead his intent is supporting
the greater good. While in some cases that may be true, it’s semantics in our
opinion. The question could be asked if the motivation is to contribute to
worthy causes through raffles, why then offer prizes as a reward? Gambling is
gambling and whether the intention is the greater good or personal gain, by
definition, it is one and the same. It is also equally as important to further
understand the proper context of the conversation, rather than zero in on one
particular issue and thereby pervert the message.

The petition to Government and
largely the support of it is based on the understanding that the proceeds of
this game of chance be used to fund education, health care and its own
operating costs. A lottery is proposed as an alternative to the illegal, yet
regularly practiced numbers game in Cayman, which only benefits a select few,
with massive profits going offshore. The petition does not seek to promote
casino style gambling, which like the current numbers game, largely only
benefits those select few, while offering mere crumbs in return by way of
community funding, only to the extent of promoting its own greed and furtherance
of its primary business; unless Government takes steps to tax a percentage of
the profits. The general acceptance of the numbers game and the selective concepts
of good and not a sin gambling is why over the years, there have been exceptionally
few arrests.

We therefore suggest to Mr.
Flately, that by his own definition, a national lottery would, if introduced as
it has been suggested, be wholesome and of the benefit to others. As such, is
it then not the exact same thing as the raffle’s put up by our churches? If he
agrees, then why should we bother putting in legislation for it, why not just
simply do it? The churches/service clubs get away with it because it serves the
greater good, while others lose so that some can win. Why not simply do the
same with the lottery? The Answer is, they are one and the same; however, like
many laws in the Cayman Islands, they apply differently to certain people or
groups. But if we are going to engage on a discussion on what is gambling,
let’s call it like it is and not make excuses why one kind is better than the

The basis of our debate on gambling
in the Cayman Islands is, two-fold; on the one hand it is about how the law
against gambling is often interpreted and enforced, creating the perception
that there are different rules for different people and on the other, to define
what our society deems acceptable forms of gambling, and those that are deemed

Austin Harris

Gilbert McLean

Cayman Crosstalk