Local gambling connected to foreign crime syndicates

| 09/12/2022 | 62 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Wayne Panton presents the bill to parliament on Wednesday

(CNS): Premier Wayne Panton, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Attorney General Sam Bulgin have all stressed that law enforcement agencies in the Cayman Islands are increasingly concerned that illegal gambling here is directly connected to international and organised crime syndicates and is generating as much as $50 million each year in illicit earnings.

Panton presented the Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2022 on Wednesday, following a debate in the House on a referendum for a national lottery, and said that illegal gambling was not a victimless crime as it is now fuelling much of the local gun violence.

He said the current law was inadequate to deal with the growing criminality associated with the various numbers games and betting. Successive governments have been “kicking the can down the road” on this issue for years, and the neglect and widespread acceptance of illegal gambling has allowed this crime to escalate.

“We must address these open violations of the law. Viewing illegal gambling as a victimless crime shrouds the insidious nature of the crime,” the premier said, adding that officials have been able to piece together the scale of the illicit gambling sector in Cayman. “I am convinced we are not dealing with a small, unsophisticated, friendly, neighbourhood game of bingo. This is about participants in illegal gambling being directly facilitated and supported by organised crime that benefits international syndicates.”

He warned about the risk to the jurisdiction from the financial crimes associated with the cash generated from the illegal games as well as the money laundering and tax evasion in the countries where the profits are being remitted. Panton said there is even evidence that false work permits are being secured for people for a legitimate operation when their real job is actually selling illegal numbers.

“The culture of illegal gambling in our country has become shockingly acceptable,” he said. If the people vote ‘yes’ in the planned referendum, the aim is to offer the option of a controlled and regulated national lottery as an alternative, while the law is changed to deal with illegal operations, he explained.

“Illegal numbers games and race-horse betting… are largely controlled by these on-island criminal gangs with international connections,” Panton said. “That raises… national security issues, and it raises concerns around our safety and integrity as a country and much more than that.”

The premier also noted the cruelty to animals associated with the “barbaric” and “un-Caymanian” cockfighting rings that people bet on heavily, and said he was aware that roosters had been imported on drug canoes for cockfighting. Dogfighting is also increasing and the animals live cruel and miserable lives. “We don’t want this for Cayman,” he added.

Gun crime is being fuelled by illegal gambling, especially in relation to armed robberies, as many of the hold-ups over the last few months have involved victims who were involved in illegal gambling. It has also resulted in murder, he said, noting the fatal shooting of retired prison officer Harry Elliott at a gambling shop in George Town in April.

The premier said the harm and costs to society were becoming more obvious, as he justified the amendments to the legislation, which are already stirring up controversy.

DG Manderson said the police believe that illegal gambling in Cayman is now run by sophisticated criminal syndicates with proper hierarchical structures, generating significant assets, which are being transferred overseas and feeding a black market and underground economy locally.

He explained that intelligence suggests there are a number of crime groups operating the illegal business, and they are also laundering money here. He said the street-level sellers are not usually local people, and that various legitimate small businesses are used to sell the numbers from foreign lotteries.

Robbers are targetting these businesses, which are holding significant quantities of cash generated by illegal gaming, estimated to be between CI$30M and $50M annually and perhaps much more, he said. “Organised crime has taken advantage of the gap in the market,” Manderson added, noting the lack of any legal lottery options here

He explained that the illegal games are based on regional lotteries, such as the Jamaica Red Ball, which plays six times a day, seven days a week, and many people are selling tickets for the Honduran lotteries at the weekend. Jamaican horse race betting is also very popular all over Grand Cayman.

The deputy governor said there was considerable underreporting of violent crimes linked to gambling, but ten at least ten robberies and violent incidents could be linked to gambling this year alone, including Elliott’s murder.

As a result, the government is significantly increasing penalties for those running illegal gambling rings as well as those taking part. Panton said the parliament had a duty to the Constitution and the people to uphold the law and try to protect people from crime. He said the changes to legislation would help to deter illicit gambling and the criminality surrounding it, while the plan to roll out a legal, regulated national lottery would offer people an alternative.

But not all of his colleagues agreed.

McKeeva Bush (WBW) tabled an amendment to the bill to legitimise the current situation, allowing small business owners to sell numbers for lotteries across the region lawfully with licences. Bush, who is well known to patronise casinos when he travels overseas, said he did not think increasing the fines for taking part in gambling would “stop the urge for people to buy numbers”.

He said that fines needed to be increased because “some were ridiculous”, but it was “a dream” to think it would stop illegal gambling as it is now extensive. If the House was serious about addressing the criminality, he said, “the way to stop the illegal numbers game is to make it legal”. Bush also said that the government should take some of the proceeds but did not explain how.

He was followed by Sir Alden McLaughlin (RED), who implied that the government’s position on the issue of gambling was contradictory. On the one hand, it was planning to hold a referendum to ask the people if they want a legal national lottery. On the other, they are increasing penalties “to put as many Caymanians as they can in jail to keep them from buying and selling numbers” because it’s such a bad thing.

McLaughlin said the logic of that “eludes me”. Suggesting that the premier did not truly understand “how endemic this is”, he pointed out that anyone can buy numbers multiple times a day. He accepted that it does fuel crime but noted that legitimate businesses are also frequently robbed.

“Without question, number sellers get robbed,” he said, but so do restaurants, bars, gas stations and stores where no one is selling numbers. McLaughlin said that most people who buy numbers are Caymanian, not “big rich people” but ordinary people who have been playing numbers for decades.

“Do you know how many old people, senior citizens, buy numbers? …We gonna put these people in jail?” he asked, as he painted a picture of little old ladies being brought to court in their wheelchairs. “What is the government trying to achieve?” McLaughlin asked. He suggested that increasing penalties would not stop the crime but would provide motivation for the police to go and arrest easy targets and “the little people”.

“I don’t mean dwarfs… but those of meagre means” who go get numbers, he said, noting that sellers never get convicted. He said a national lottery would not serve as a real alternative, given the current frequency that people can access numbers and the multiple chances available to win.

McLaughlin lent his support to the idea of examining the possibility of legitimising the current system to tackle the problem without the proposed “draconian approach of sending masses of Caymanians to jail”.

He also revealed that the same bill, with very few differences, was “foisted upon me as premier to bring down here in 2018”, but he had rejected it because he knew what the result would be for the people. He said that in his view the proposed changes would be “a social disaster”.

The debate was adjourned late Wednesday evening and is expected to be picked back up when members return to parliament on Monday. MPs spent another heated session on Thursday dealing with private members’ motions but opted not to sit Friday because of the planned House of Parliament’s Christmas staff function.

See the debate on CIGTV below:

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Category: Laws, Politics

Comments (62)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    every time you make something illegal, you create an opportunity for organized crime.
    education is the solution .

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sorry but I am not buying it. Smells wayyy too fishy. If Panton and PACT really cared about the poor and working class of this land, they would not even consider proposing that we have a government-run lottery, or indeed ANY lottery.

    In regard to animal fighting, I shall suggest that if Panton were as smart as he thinks he is, he would know that in certain ethnic segments (meaning more than just one) of our population that WE Caymanians imported here animal fighting is a cultural phenomena and is a social event among the poorer class. It offers a thrilling diversion to their otherwise munbdane life rather than simply being a means to gamble. The gambling aspect just adds to the excitement. A national lottery is not going have any impact on this you bunch of clueless clods!

    Here is the bottom line: Strictly game-of-chance gambling like a lottery is a bad thing for all bettors: most people lose, only a few win. The seller of the tickets always comes out on top at the expense of the ticket buyers, However, and this something Panton should be aware of: The loss incurred by gambling has greater negative impact on the poorer class. Poorer gamblers spend a far higher proportion of their meagre incomes on lottery tickets than wealthy gamblers do. According to David Just, professor of economics at Cornell University, who has studied gambling behavior involving purchasing lottery tickets, the people most likely to buy lottery tickets are often those who most rely on government assistance programs!

    To put it simply, PACTless is proposing that government raise revenue by tempting the worst off of our people to hand over their already scant dollars buying into a game of chance with a horridly low return. Then, more impoverished by gambling, they need more government assistance. Or….they turn to more sinister ways to make up for the loss.

    Just as the cigarette industry hooked the poor unfortunate user with slick and splashy advertising, look at national and state run lotteries and their tickets if you want to see a losing proposition offered in the most enticing and seductive ways possible. This a business that our PACTless government wants to be in? They should be ashamed!

    The question that pleads for an answer is this: Would a moral and ethical government want to hold a monopoly on the repugnant business of persuading the suffering to part with portion of their tiny pay cheques in the overwhelmingly fruitless dream of an enriching return that they are all but certain never to see?

    This issue smells of the Panton-PACTless clan trying to scare the people of these islands into accepting locally-controlled gambling. Panton says that gambling threatens national security, and raises concerns about our safety and integrity as a country and much more than that.” National security? Seriously, Henny Penny? Is the sky falling THAT hard on your little head? OMG! Talk about hysterical hyperbole and just plain drama-queening!

    And another thing…! Panton stated that that officials have been able to piece together the scale of the illicit gambling sector in Cayman. Seriously?? Alrighty then! How in the bloody hell can they “piece together the scale of the illicit gambling sector in Cayman” and not be able to piece together a way to combat it? What the hell are these jokers getting paid to do?

    On the high end, I wonder who is going to own and control the casinos if that is where things end up? Exactly how are these huge sums of cash making their way out of Cayman and into syndicate hands? The funds have to be bank transferred out and at some point converted into the recipient currency. Most recipient banks in countries that will not raise an SAR right off the bat if you transfer funds there, adhere to KYC and AML regulations as well.

    Too many questions, not enough answers on this issue. Something just is not right.

  3. Casino says:

    Legalise gambling. After over 20 years Michael Ryan could finaly get his casino. Fin Cayman looks the part and there is plenty of empty space.

    • Anonymous says:

      Michael Ryan will just repeat what he did at the Ritz and put another floor above the penthouses. He’ll have plenty of space for a casino.

  4. Anonymous says:

    How is Mckeeva allowed to comment still? Govt credit cards in casionos, assaulting waitresses in casionos, menace to society

  5. ELVIS says:

    Cayman needs to be proactive not reactive. A Cayman lottery would have eliminated this years ago but you choose to bury your heads again.
    imaging the cash it could generate for worthy causes.

    As long as you don’t have someone in charge who will line their own pockets of course.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you knew anything about numbers you would know that a lottery is not going to discourage people from playing it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Legalizing, in this case Ganja and Gambling will not eliminate the criminal element attached to these activities. Nor will any of the profits attached to them directly trickle down to the most needy and vulnerable in our society. Because the money is all most of you are concerned about anyhow. But your romanticizing legalization to believe something will be in it for you. The reality that awaits is more financial despair and addiction. And those at the top will become richer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Imagine the addiction growth too.

      • Anonymous says:

        2:31, No proof of addiction growth in Canada or Colorado after 5 years.

        What are you afraid of?

    • Anonymous says:

      If you think that a lottery will eliminate the illegal numbers game you are sadly mistaken.

  6. Dang says:

    I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong but I don’t believe there has been a charge of dog fighting yet, not to say there haven’t been cases but if there have been, there has been no mention of it.
    Yet, dog fighting is increasing?
    Dog fighting can be run by small criminals to the criminal elite, so I would not be surprised if this post is redacted before people start asking real questions

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Our representatives certainly know what’s going on. But there’s no suggestion of them authorizing or directing any action to resolve the problems. All they can do is wring their hands and say “woe is me”. For God’s sake, take action.

    And $30M a year ? that sounds a little inflated. Surely a sum that large deserves more police and investigative action, with the chance of confiscation. How can I help ? Tho we don’t trust the police to make an effort, assuming they are not already complicit in these crimes.

    if they know of gambling dens, raid them frequently. Observe and follow the perpetrators. Interrupt their activities.

    if you know permit holders are not gainfully employed in a legit business, arrest and deport, and fine the employers. Publish names of offenders. So much can be done to address these issues, but no one in power seems to give a damn. Shame on them all.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wow. It only took 25 years for the government to figure out that the illegal numbers game was connect to foreign crime syndicates. Please tell me the police at least knew this back in the late 80s.

  9. Anonymous says:

    $30 million annually is $82,000 per day…

    Doesn’t add up to me…

  10. Anonymous says:

    If we do not take steps to reduce the size of the Jamaican population living in the Cayman Islands we are going to see more criminal activity. Unfortunately Jamaica has perfected the art of crime and has exported it here. Nobody has the balls to say it, but we all know it, here is the current menu of services offered:

    Drug Importer (Air or Sea)
    Firearm Importer (Air and Sea)
    Drug Seller (Street Level)
    Armed Robber (street Level)
    Hitman for Hire
    Gang Enforcer
    Numbers Seller (Street level)
    Numbers Banker (Top Level)
    Work Permit Processor (Comes with own fake construction, landscaping, carwash company)

    These are just a few. Sadly, we have so many corrupt Jamaican cops in the RCIPS, nothing is done about the above and it continues to grow exponentially.

    Instead of being worried about marriages of convenience, MR Saunder needs to be concerned that so many of his countrymen and women are here destroying the fabric of the country through blatant criminal acts.

    With the many thousands of Jamaicans now living here the criminals have a huge customer base to make money from and that is just what they are doing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Sir Alden! I was wondering if anyone out there is so naive to think that if we legalize gambling that the illegal gambling would stop? The thought process behind that is so lame it is pitiful.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is pitiful is you following his lame assumptions. If there is a legal lottery some would prefer to play that. They are less likely to play anything illegal. Of course there may be illegal gambling but there would be stricter penalties than there are now and that would at least be somewhat of a deterrent. Nobody said the bill or a lottery would stop illegal gambling! It is still worth doing if it at least reduces the amount of criminality.

    • Anonymous says:

      10:01am, you are spot on. Crimes committed by Jamaicans will continue to grow as the police (who are the same nationality) are only here for a good paycheck. They don’t care about fighting crime in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pimping too, don’t forget that!

  11. Anonymous says:

    “MPs spent another heated session on Thursday dealing with private members’ motions but opted not to sit Friday because of the planned House of Parliament’s Christmas staff function.” Well, they opted for the company Christmas party which probably benefited the population as if they aren’t in session they can’t pass any legislation like banning leaf blowers. One of the really big issues facing this island….😂😂😂

    • Anonymous says:

      Another lead blower complaint. We have rampant crime, completely backlogged traffic from 6:45 am, a failed education system, an economic crash on the horizon… but… what about the leafblowers!

      Your absolutely lack of prioritization is dumbfounding. When cayman pumps out more useless kids out of government schools who cant even do basic math and english and get no jobs to be productive in society, the robberies will increase ten fold.. then leaf blowers will be the least of your concerns.

      But for now you are probably comfortable so its all ‘what about my comfort!!! Someone focus on me!!!’

      • Anonymous says:

        You don’t get it at all. Any society where you can get away with not respecting people leads to a society riddled with crime

        Bikers race on roads and do dangerous wheelies, because they can get away with it
        People talk on their phones while driving, because they can get away with it
        People play numbers, because they get away with it
        You can drive along the roads with all your windows down blasting music at 500 decibels and get away with it
        You can make a noise at 0500 with a leaf blower and get away with it.

        There are laws in place to prevent all the above, but they are not enforced. Collectively it is a very large problem of an ever increasing lawless society.

        All and more should be tackled as a priority.

  12. Anonymous says:

    God forbid they should sit in parliament and do their job and not take the whole of Friday off for a Chris party.

  13. anon says:

    Between “30 and 50 million CI$ annually and perhaps much more”, where do the mostly poor people who play these numbers games get this sort of money?. Is Govt suggesting that a large portion of the assistance funds doled out by the NAU is gambled away!.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is very typical government narrative. They have not offered one shred of evidence to support what they are saying in regard to foreign crime syndicates, not one. The government identifies a fake problem then amazingly is able to solve it, if you support them.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Now I know if I would like to participate in illegal gambling I must just go to one of the establishments that’s been robbed. And big thank you to Honduras and Jamaica for helping us participate.

    • Anonymous says:

      People of Cayman especially voters listen carefully to the Parliament on Monday.

      I keep hearing that the number kingpins control certain politicians who have been ordered to vote again the Bill.

      why would any political votes against a Bill that will save lives?

      Watch carefully. your life might be put in jeopardy if the kingpins can control politicians.

  16. Anonymous says:

    ‘Bush, who is well known to patronise casinos when he travels overseas’

    LOL 😆. Superb piece of trolling CNS.

  17. Anonymous says:

    organized crime is just an excuse. Gov’t realizing how much money is being made here and want stick their greedy hands into it.
    Canada leagizled ganja and the gov’t and Trudeau are so inept they actually lost money. Leave up to government to lose money selling weed just as PACT will screw up a national lottery.

    • Hubert says:

      9:10, You do not know what you are talking about. A Deloitte Canada report earlier this year, showed that marijuana contributed $43.5 billion to the Canadian Gross Domestic Product since it was legalized in October 2018.


      • Anonymous says:


        • Anonymous says:

          Why don’t you just Google “ Deloitte Canada Cannabis” to see the major study done earlier this year on the Canadian Cannabis industry.

          Facts hurt that is the problem for the close minded.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes because google is the authoritative source! Besides Canada is about a billion times bigger than Cayman and governed totally different. Next up we will publish a paper on sex before marriage comparing Cayman to Indonesia.

            Btw use a vpn and conduct two identical searches in google from totally different countries. You will be surprised at the results. You are fed what AI thinks you should know based on location, political bias and browser history.

            Studies by the way are just that, and offer little conclusive proof. A study once found that more people drown where ice cream is sold out of trucks. What do you think the outcome was?

            • Anonymous says:

              The source is Deloitte Canada Bobo. Google is only a search engine.

              Geez, get with it.

            • Anonymous says:

              I guarantee that if you Google from Cayman “Deloitte Canada Cannabis” you will see that study from earlier this year.

              Stay on topic Bobo, rather than deflecting.

              I know, facts hurt painfully.

            • Big Bobo In West Bay says:

              2:42, Spend a week in Amsterdam, keep your eyes open, go to a few bars, get around and just keep an open mind. It will blow your mind. Suggest you don’t go to the red light district as that will shock you too, but suspect you might partake in the activities there. 😆 😝 😂

              See you in church on Sunday.

              As my mother would say, the proof is in the pudding. But I bet you don’t like pudding too.

      • Anonymous says:

        At that rate everyone in Canada must be stoned! eh?

        • Anonymous says:

          10 years ago when the debate was on in Canada and Colorado on the impact legalization of cannabis would have on society some people said those places would go to hell and a hand basket.

          Turns out nothing of the sort happened. The courts and police no longer wasted their time going after people with a couple of grams of cannabis.

          Was in Toronto earlier this year and noticed that place was totally civilized in relation to ganga legalisation and cannabis sales. While the Government of Canada rakes the revenue in rather than the criminal element.

          We need to go after the real criminals here in Cayman not the guy with a couple of grams of ganga.

    • Anonymous says:

      So what we have our own organized crimes right here that nothing is done about:
      1) Cayman business operators who bring in workers on work permits knowing they have no work for them only to tell them to roam the streets and find their own work. No pension or health insurance
      2) Hiring on all kinds of job sites of these rouge work permit holders outside of the terms of the granted work permit but nothing done about it.
      3) Employers not paying anything of the labor law (overtime, sick pay, etc.) or not even paying employees yet some of these same contractors are getting government contracts or employed on very large projects that are getting duty exemptions.
      4) Large wealthy developers getting all kinds of government waivers yet not improving the infrastructure that their projects are stretching to the limit.
      It goes on and on yet now these politicians decide to narrow done on illegal number rackets.
      Give me a break and just catch the scum doing the crimes and shut it down.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad they opted not to sit Friday because of the planned House of Parliament’s Christmas staff function because that might be something they could be good at, these parliamentary debates they’re not. Alden got it right but just in the wrong context, a social disaster

  19. Anonymous says:

    McKeewa and McLaughlin both need to sit down, their talk is no longer relevant now.

  20. Anonymous says:

    McLaughlin talking alot – what did you do all those years to let it get to this!

    • Anonymous says:

      He said he refused to bring the same changes that were “foisted upon him” for the reasons he stated his debate, I guess you didnt bother to read, just saw the name Alden and decide to troll.

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably sitting in a bar drinking his whiskey!

  21. Anonymous says:

    My goodness, do you mean that all these worthy prominent Caymanians who for years and years used to drink, eat, watch football and gamble on football at Durty Reid’s were fueling the Mafia? One of the customers and participants was a former police chief!

  22. Caymanian says:

    I believe I have said this before. Well here I go again.

    Things to institute.

    1. Casinos – Gambling tourism. Will get a bunch of investment also. Hold offseason tournaments to drive tourism.

    2. Lottery – Not sure Cayman big enough for a lottery but open it up to Jamaica and other countries.

  23. Anonymous says:

    zzzzzz…..u guys need worry about the selected couple buying the country….they gonna soon dictate the government….a monopoly on such a large scale ownership is driving young caymanians away from their country…as no land to buy?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Captain obvious strikes again. Imagine believing it was all just harmless fun. Not organised Jamaicans doing what they do best!


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