Two prominent Cayman Islands lawmakers said last week that, aside from any personal views about legalised gambling, they would support calls for a referendum on the subject.
Both Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin and Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said during a Cayman Business Outlook panel Thursday evening that any question about casino or lottery gambling should be left up to the voters to decide.
“It should be done in a national referendum,” Mr. Anglin said.
Attempts to hold such a vote during 2010 under the previous United Democratic Party government administration failed amid public pressure on the issue. Although a petition circulated in support of gambling by local talk show host Gilbert McLean did receive several hundred signatures, the issue never resurfaced.
Asked about it by Cayman Business Outlook panel moderator Ben Meade on Thursday, Mr. Anglin said it would be his inclination to support casino gambling as a way to enhance Cayman’s tourism product.
“Look at the number of countries in the region and look at how those have completely changed and revolutionised their tourism products,” Mr. Anglin said. He noted that some countries, like the Bahamas, do not allow their own nationals to attend casinos, but he did not state whether he would support a similar situation in the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Anglin’s former UDP colleague, George Town Member of the Legislative Assembly Ellio Solomon, said during Thursday’s panel discussion that he was against legalised gambling because he believed it would eventually cost Cayman more than it would earn the government in any revenues that might be collected.
“No one ever shows you what the expenditure side of smoking is,” Mr. Solomon said, referring to the health care costs of treating people who develop cancer or bronchial diseases from long-term cigarette use. “No one’s going to tell you what you’re going to have to push out in terms of programmes for those who are addicted to gambling.”
Deputy Premier Anglin said such a view attempts to take what he called a “convenient middle” on the issue, pretending there are no numbers games and other wager-based operations within the Cayman Islands. A consultant’s report done for the former government in 2010 found that legalised gambling would likely succeed in Cayman mostly because such “below the board” operations were rife in the islands.
“There are more numbers and more gaming systems here now than there ever were before,” Mr. Anglin said. “If we are going to go out and eliminate the evils of just the numbers system alone, we need to beef up the [Royal Cayman Islands Police Service] … and wage a war to stamp it out.
“The majority must have a say in their destiny,” he added. “People are going to make the decisions they want to make.”
Opposition Leader McLaughlin said he personally does not support gambling for some of the reasons Mr. Solomon expressed and because he does not believe any national lottery system would earn government any significant tax revenue. However, he admits that other members within his People’s Progressive Movement Party are “far more liberal” on the gambling issue.
Mr. McLaughlin said he would support a referendum on casino gambling, as long as the question about whether local Caymanians would be able to make wagers in the facilities was resolved prior to the balloting.
“A distinction needs to be made between lottery and casinos,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I believe that Cayman’s population simply would not sustain [the lottery] without being affiliated with a lottery somewhere else.
“The issue with casinos is the same one that Bahamas have contended with: Should you or should you not let your local population play?” he said.