Attempts at Cayman Islands lottery fail

Former Cayman Islands MLA and radio talk show host Gilbert McLean tried to gather enough signatures of local voters who supported a national lottery in the Cayman Islands to encourage a referendum on the issue back in 2009/10.

The petition, presented to then-Premier McKeeva Bush did not receive enough signatures to trigger a referendum on the subject and a public vote during Mr. Bush’s term in office was never held despite several promises from the ex-premier to do so.

The former Cabinet minister said at the time that he’d like to model Cayman’s national lottery on the one 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. [see article elsewhere in this Compasspoint section]. “That would be, to my mind, the correct way of doing it,” Mr. McLean said.

The Bodden Town resident said he realised church groups and some Cayman lawmakers are simply opposed to legalised gambling. However, he pointed out that a numbers game is run illegally here 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 was more of an advisory document than any attempt to force government’s hand, according to Mr. McLean. Under Cayman’s new Constitution, which took effect 6 November, 2009, 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.
Mr. McLean said he never wanted to go that route and that his petition was more of an advisory or encouragement 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.”

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