Lawmakers seem to favour casinos, but Cayman’s public seems ready for a lottery
Are you talking about casino or lottery?
“A distinction needs to be made between lottery and casinos,” People’s Progressive Movement Leader Alden McLaughlin said. “I believe that Cayman’s population simply would not sustain [the lottery] without being affiliated with a lottery somewhere else.”
Mr. McLaughlin, along with Deputy Premier and political rival Rolston Anglin, recently said they would both favour a public referendum on casino gambling mainly as a way to bolster 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 during a recent forum at the Cayman Business Outlook. 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 the same panel discussion that he was against any form of 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 healthcare 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.
Gaming already here
A revealing consultants report done for the Cayman Islands government back in 2010 seemed to support what Mr. Anglin argued at the Cayman Business Outlook.
The numbers games are here in force and likely to stay.
The report was conducted by GTECH Corporation on the potential for lottery-based gambling in the Cayman Islands. It found that residents would be very receptive to such gaming, largely because similar types of betting already occur here and the population is ‘highly familiar’ with the games.
According to the study, electronic and instant ticket lotto games would generate a combined US$9 million to $11 million in revenue, with some US$1.2 million to $1.4 million of that going to government coffers.
GTECH officials believe that residents would have a “relatively high propensity to play a legalised lottery because of several factors”, including Cayman’s wealth and a significant presence of immigrant labourers from jurisdictions that already have national lotteries.
Also, the GTECH evaluation reported a “notable and prominent presence of unregulated lottery games in the Cayman Islands”.
In studying the Cayman Islands market potential for various GTECH gaming products, it appeared that GTECH Latin America was able to fairly easily infiltrate and determine what was happening in Cayman’s ‘off the books’ gambling scene.
“Many things that happen openly today in the Cayman Islands (club raffles and fundraisers) are actually illegal under that existing statute, although there is no apparent enforcement effort on the part of the authorities, nor any recognition of the illegality on the part of the populace,” the GTECH Latin America report stated, noting that Caymanians who buy Florida lotto tickets and bring them back to the country are actually committing an offence under what the report called the outdated Gambling Law (1996 Revision).
“The population is very familiar with gaming, as there is a strong and visible presence of unregulated games on the Islands,” the report noted. “Although such forms of gaming are unregulated, this does not diminish or negate the fact that the populace is highly familiar with and readily participates in lottery-type games.”
The GTECH consultants said they met with a number of people who were both selling and wagering on unregulated games.
“Those wagering on games typically purchase their tickets from sellers they are familiar with and trust. The sellers sell the tickets either via telephone or at their house/store/bar, etc.”
Attempts at regulation
There have previously been attempts to better regulate Cayman’s gaming environment, even as early as 1994 when a private members motion brought before the Legislative Assembly by then-MLA Gilbert McLean sought a resolution to allow charities, non-profits and service clubs to register with the government in order to hold raffles for fund-raising purposes.
Mr. McLean told the assembly, according to Hansard records from 29 September, 1994, that he “sought to correct a situation that is occurring in the country where raffles – plain, simple, non-sinful raffles held by even churches for the purposes of raising funds for good causes – are illegal under the Gambling Law”.
Then-Attorney General Richard Coles responded to Mr. McLean’s motion stating that he thought “common sense” could be used in such cases where church or community service groups held raffles for charitable purposes.
“In the cause of common sense and good sense, prosecutions have not been brought in those sorts of instances, where an organisation is doing good work and is trying to obtain funds for that purpose,” he said.
The motion was eventually defeated by a vote of 4-11.
Fifteen years later, another attempt was made at regulating charitable fund-raising through the use of lotteries in the Charities Bill, 2009.
According to section 21 of the proposal:: “A person shall not solicit property from the public or government through fund-raising activities for the benefit of a charity unless he does so in accordance with an agreement with the charity satisfying the prescribed requirements.”
However, the 2009 draft of the Charities Bill was scuttled by government after local charitable organisations and churches revolted against the plan, stating it would bring “an end to goodwill” in the Cayman Islands.