February 25, 2021

Gambling in the Cayman Islands

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The Cayman Islands “are falling behind other Caribbean Islands because of our failure to embrace gambling onshore.”. This is one of the manifestos of opposition party leader Ezzard Miller who is asking for gambling to be legalised in the British overseas territory and part of the Greater Antilles set of islands.

He said that the measure to add penalties and restrictions to gambling are “draconian” and is lobbying for the islands to catch up to neighbouring islands like the Bahamas.

Black Market Gambling

He argues that gambling is going on anyway but underground and so punters have no protection from loan sharks and the Treasury gets no tax income from it. By legalizing it, the economy would benefit and they could better regulate gambling outfits and gambling activity. There is evidence of this and police have regularly busted gambling dens or home-style casinos with fines ranging from USD $10 to $2,500 and prison sentences up to 2 months.

To circumvent the ban, many residents or holidaymakers open accounts with offshore casinos and sports betting companies to bet on games and sports events. There is also a not so secret weekly lottery going on in the black market. All that means an unregulated gambling industry that can lead to exploitation, other criminal elements or connected activities and of course zero tax being paid by the companies that offer gambling.

The Cayman Islands are made up of 3 islands, the largest Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac and Little Cayman and since the 1960s there has been a ban on any form of gambling except for raffle tickets and also offshore Cayman Island registered ships as long as they are offshore and not in territorial waters.

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Making Gambling even Tougher for Residents

On the other side of the political divide, the incumbent governing party wants to make the gambling ban even stricter with imprisonment rising to a maximum of 3 years to really put off the illegal betting houses and punters and fines to go up to $10,000 dollars.

It remains to be seen which side has more support and which has the greater influence, the elections are due to be held this year on 26 May 2021 where the Governing party the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) will try to hold onto power. Mille is leading his recently formed party in 2020 the Cayman Islands People’s Party to try to win the election and put into place policies like lifting the ban on gambling.

The islands are wealthy because of their historical tax haven status, so many financial institutions and wealthy individuals locate there for their residence. So, the extra revenue from gambling is not a big factor, more crucial would be the attraction for residents and tourists which are more important for the economy and long-term prosperity of the islands. See here, just a short hop to St. Kitts or Aruba and Casino resorts are readily available.

The Caymans have fallen behind in industries like Crypto, tourism and property they must adapt to a changing world to keep up with the neighbours.

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