Magistrate queries Gambling Law

Woman convicted for gaming house again

A woman with a previous conviction
under the Gambling Law received a community service order instead of
imprisonment after Magistrate Nova Hall looked at the sentencing provisions and
suggested they need to be revised.

“If authorities are seeking to
crack down on gambling offences, the penalties need to be higher,” she said on
Wednesday. She was dealing with offences of selling lottery tickets and using a
residence as a common gaming house.

Olga Padilla Nugent, 59, had
pleaded guilty to committing the offences on 22 July, 2010. A social inquiry
report revealed that she was under a suspended sentence at the time for similar
offences committed in 2009. The court did not have this information on Monday,
so sentencing was adjourned.

An updated conviction record showed
that in February 2010 Nugent was given a sentence of five months imprisonment,
suspended for two years. A suspended sentence is meant to encourage good
behaviour because another similar conviction would ordinarily activate the suspended
sentence in addition to any new sentence.

Crown Counsel Jenesha Simpson said
the 2010 charges were brought after police received information that lottery
tickets were being sold from a specific house on Greenwood Avenue in George
Town. An operation was carried out in which officers photocopied $5 notes and
then used them to purchase tickets. The purchases were through a rear side
window of the house and a receipt was received.

Later the same day, uniformed
officers attended the house and conducted a search. Three of the four $5 notes
used to purchase lottery tickets were recovered. Officers also found a receipt
book, a lottery ticket book, $1,184.96 and US$53.77.

Defence attorney John Furniss
suggested that different people have different views about the lottery. “One
wonders whether various schemes used to attract customers would, if looked at,
fall under the law,” he said.

He also noted that Nugent is from
Honduras and there perhaps are cultural differences between here and there. He
described his client as a senior citizen who might be guided by a probation
officer. Mr. Furniss suggested adding to the suspended sentence and then
suspending it for a longer period.

“It does seem we target the lottery
and other matters which could be said to be very close to gaming are never
investigated or touched,” he commented.

The magistrate said she was reading
from the 1996 revision of the Gambling Law. The section under which Nugent was
charged has as the penalty “a fine of $100, and in default of payment to
imprisonment for six months, with or without hard labour.”

The magistrate noted the disparity
between $100 and six months.

She cited another section which
sets the penalty for taking part in a public lottery: a fine of $10 or imprisonment
for two months.

Nugent’s suspended sentence was
based on a different section of the Gambling Law. It provides for a fine of up
to $400 or imprisonment for 12 months.

The magistrate said she did not
think a further suspended sentence would carry any weight with the defendant.
She then thought seriously of imposing a short term of imprisonment, but
decided on the alternative of 90 hours of community service. If that order is
not complied with, Nugent will be taken back for sentence.

The magistrate further ordered her
to pay costs of $450 or serve 30 days. 
Ms Simpson also asked that the money seized at the house be forfeited
and the magistrate made the order.

The 1996 revision of the Gambling
Law is based on the law in effect in 1964. An informal comparison shows the
wording of various sections to be exactly the same except that the amount of
money set as fines is changed from pounds to dollars; for example, the penalty
for keeping a common gaming house was 50 pounds; for taking part in a public lottery,
five pounds.

3 COMMENTS

  1. So who can tell me why gambling is illegal here anyhow? A national lottery would be a great way to raise money for Charities and the Arts, and the main headline in the Compass today would suggest that such funds are greatly needed at present.

  2. Gambling is illegal in Cayman because a substantial constituency among the elctorate believes legalising it would make their imaginary friend unhappy

  3. It would seem far more appropriate to concentrate on more (ahem!) pressing matters ie the violent crimes that are ruining island life for the very vast majority of residents? Not to mention the damage it will have on tourism………

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