Gambling, Liquor Law changes come into effect in new year

Cruise ship passengers still will not be able to gamble within Cayman Islands territorial waters next year, but gambling will be allowed on ships flying the Cayman Islands flag for the first time. 

Changes to the Gambling Law, assented to earlier this year and to come into effect on Jan. 1, will permit gambling on ships registered by the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry as long as they are on an international voyage. 

Commerce Minister Wayne Panton explained earlier this year that the shipping registry was missing out on revenue due to rules that prevented gambling on cruise ships registered in the Cayman Islands.  

Vessels registered in Cayman must adhere to local laws, even in inter­national waters.  

“The law allows gambling if they are 12 miles out to sea and on an international voyage,” Mr. Panton said. “They have to be going to an overseas port. That would exclude that type of scenario. The aim is solely to facilitate the shipping registry in marketing its services to cruise lines.” 

He added that Cayman’s legislation will continue to ban gambling within the Cayman Islands, including on local commercial and recreational vessels. 

The legislation will officially not ban gambling in the form of fundraising raffles held by churches or community groups. 

Raffles formally legalized 

In practice, these types of raffles have never been enforced under the provisions of the local Gambling Law, but they will now be given the official “green light” to operate under the amended legislation. 

Last-minute amendments to the Cayman Islands Gambling Law in October include the legalization of raffles – defined as the sale of numbered tickets, one or more of which is drawn as the means of awarding a prize. 

Illegal forms of lottery games, including “numbers” games, are still against the law in Cayman. 

The Cayman Islands Cabinet is authorized by the legislation to license raffles, including the manner in which the fundraisers must account for proceeds and any license fees.  

The legislation puts to rest issues raised in a 2010 consultant’s report commissioned by the Cayman Islands government that revealed a number of different kinds of gambling – both the socially acceptable kind and otherwise – taking place in the islands. 

Liquor licensing changes 

Sweeping changes proposed for Cayman’s Liquor Licensing Law seeking to end what government and business leaders have often described as the “black market” for liquor licenses will also take effect on Jan. 1.  

Among the major changes in the Liquor Licensing (Amendment) Law, 2015, are requirements that every business owner who applies for a liquor license must first be the holder of a Trade and Business License. Grandfathered license holders are given up to a five-year grace period before they are required to comply with the legislation.  

If someone sells liquor without having a valid trade and business license, they can be fined up to $10,000 upon conviction.  

Trade officers with the Department of Commerce and Investment will be given the same powers as a police constable in investigating such instances.  

The new requirement aims to stop the practice of individuals holding on to liquor licenses they are not using and then selling them at unregulated prices to the highest bidder.  

In part, government’s continuing ban on the issuance of new liquor licenses, which has typically been lifted only for brief periods by Cabinet, has made the existing liquor licenses more valuable.  

Rather than continuing a moratorium that is lifted at various times, the new law removes the requirement to lift the moratorium in order to grant new licenses. 


  1. How many cruise ships are registered in the Cayman Islands now ? Cayman is loosing out on revenue from not having ships registered in Cayman. What makes Government think that one would want to register their ship in Cayman just to be able to gamble while in Cayman. I don’t think that this would be enough reasons for one to register the ship in Cayman Islands. Unless there’s more hidden benefits that we would not know about until they are committed.

  2. @Ron – I think you have misunderstood.

    The changes will now allow a ship registered in Cayman to have legal Gambling ONCE OUTSIDE Cayman waters. Putting them on a par with a ship registered in say Florida.

    But by registering a ship in Cayman, the owners/passengers/crew are STILL subject to Cayman Law even once they are in international waters.

    There may be tax benefits to such a registration, or indeed Cayman could modify its Tax laws to benefit Ship owners registered under the Cayman Flag to encourage them?

    The flip side is how many of Caymans other rather convoluted laws would discourage such registrations.

    For instance, would Officers and Crew be subject to the work-permit and rollover restrictions?

    Would the high rates of duty apply when the ship was provisioned even in a foreign port – the goods are in effect entering Cayman Territory ?

    Of course Local regulations always supersede – so e.g. firearms may be legal on a florida registered ship but of course they must be declared, surrendered and stored at the port authority while in Cayman waters.

    And of course if there is a dispute it would have to be resolved under Cayman Law and in a Cayman court, which again may discourage registrations…

    Cayman has according to Wikipedia around 116 registrations with 88% foreign registered.

    Malta, also an island of 122 square miles, has over 1,600 ships of over 1000 tons registered.

    Another common registry which most people have heard of is Liberia (though few could find it on a map – west coast of Africa near Sierra Leone) which accounts for 11 percent of all shipping worldwide (second only to Panama) with around 3500 ships registered (only about twice as many as Malta).

    In short this is not going to turn around Caymans Ship registry…

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