CoP admits failure to enforce gambling law

| 20/01/2023 | 52 Comments
Gambling in the Cayman Islands
CoP Derek Byrne appears before the select committee

(CNS): Police Commissioner Derek Byrne has admitted that law enforcement has not been doing enough to address the escalating problem of gambling, which he said is both fuelling and directly linked to other crimes. Byrne said the RCIPS needs to do more, but that community-wide tolerance of illegal gambling and inadequate consequences for anyone who commits this offence has undermined police efforts. But if more had been done, the situation may not have become as bad as it is now, he said.

Appearing on Thursday before the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Gambling (Amendment) Bill 2022, Byrne explained to MPs why he had been raising his concerns since he arrived here six years ago about the inadequate consequences relating to gambling offences, and why he had made recommendations to increase the penalties as a way of deterring people in the gambling business.

Byrne said that illegal gambling generated a significant and worrying amount of serious crime, such as money laundering and robberies, and that young people were being sucked into the crime world because they worked as mules for organised criminals. It was linked to drugs, guns, work permit infractions and many other crimes, he said.

But when questioned by Kenneth Bryan (GTC), the police commissioner accepted that gambling was already illegal and the police could have done more to arrest those who are running illegal gambling operations. He admitted that the crime associated with it, from extortion to immigration offences, as well as the gambling itself, was “happening in plain sight”, especially in the area of Eastern Avenue in George Town.

Although the CoP was unable to tell Bryan how many arrests for gambling had been made over the past year, he said it was “very few”, but that the police were focused on the organised crime associated with it.

Byrne told MPs that a few people were making a lot of money from the wide cross-section of society playing numbers. As previously reported, the authorities believe that the illegal gambling sector is worth around $30-50 million per year, which the commissioner said was a conservative estimate. But the combination of inadequate laws and high community tolerance meant the police were not combating the actual illegal gambling, though he denied that this was because the RCIPS simply accepted that gambling was just a thing that happened.

“I am saying we could be doing more,” Byrne said but claimed that limited powers and an outdated law had led to that lack of enforcement. He said he didn’t think people really understood how much other serious crime is associated with gambling. Even though he accepted that the only change in the proposed amendment bill was an increase in the penalties, he said that if it passed, it would see the RCIPS put more resources into clamping down.

“I would certainly do an awful lot more if I thought the appropriate… or proportionate response was there,” he said. “We are not doing enough to address all of these concerns, or we wouldn’t have had a murder, we wouldn’t have the level of extortion or the level of robberies that we have,” the commissioner conceded.

Former premier and opposition member Sir Alden McLaughlin (RED) also raised concerns about the bill and what the commissioner was hoping to achieve. During the debate in parliament at the end of last year, McLaughlin had said the only thing the bill would do was criminalise ‘little old ladies”, a position he repeated Thursday after pointing out that one of the main demographics playing numbers was elderly Caymanians hoping to win a little something to supplement their meagre pensions.

McLaughlin asked the commissioner if, given how entrenched the numbers game is in the Cayman Islands, he believed it would be better to seek to legalise and then regulate gambling rather than ramping up the penalties. He noted that this “would bite hardest” on the retirees who hope to win a few hundred dollars rather than those who sell the numbers and are heading up the criminal organisations.

Increasing fines up to $10,000 would not result in many of the sellers coming before the courts “as they are far more savvy”, he said. “What we are more likely to see, as has been the case in the distant past, is little old ladies or elderly gentlemen being charged with… buying a number, and I am afraid that we are going to put in place… some secure retirement homes as you can’t put these people in jail.”

McLaughlin said this was a big concern. “We need to find a way to avoid penalising some of the most vulnerable in this community who are operating on small fixed incomes,” he said. “It seems to me to be beyond wrong to seek to penalise further ordinary people.” Instead, he said, the government should regulate the numbers games and avoid the criminal element — a position that appears to be now shared by several other MPs.

During the afternoon session, MPs attempted to navigate how a select committee actually works and how they should approach amending the legislation. However, as it appeared that both government and opposition members supported putting this law on hold at least until after the planned referendum on a legalised lottery, or even withdrawn altogether, Premier Wayne Panton agreed to adjourn the committee.

He said time was needed to discuss the ideas being put forward to delay the proposed bill and where PACT now stands on the broader issue.

See the commissioner appear before the committee on CIGTV below:

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Category: Crime, Laws, Police, Politics

Comments (52)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This man used to be a highly respected copper tasked with taking on Irish organised crime. And now he runs a circus sideshow in which his force cannot even deal with basic traffic enforcement, let alone numbers dealing, or look after a police dog pound, despite a massive budget. And his reputation for being fearless and incorruptible in dealing with Irish armed hoodlums tainted by his officers failure to even breathalyse an MP, let alone resolve the long outstanding investigation into the “theft” of a huge quantity of drugs from a police station evidence locker. WTF happened to the man? Sad, just sad.

  2. Anonymous says:

    To say that the law will results in old people being arrested is gratuitous and misleading. The hidden truth is that illegal numbers that have deep connection to organized crime, money laundering and corruption has infected and influenced a significant segment of the State that have also resulted in the deaths and serious injuries of others.
    Gambling is a sickness.
    The last government also pulled the Bill.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How is the investigation into some of the most egregious status grants coming?

  4. Anonymous says:

    When a senior officer of any agency openly admits incompetence, we should believe them and let that instruct the remedial action that comes next. Over to you Governor?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I know it doesn’t take the mantle of a prophet to figure this out, but let me interpret.
    “We have been told to get ready for legalized gambling.”

  6. Elvis says:

    U hear the so called MLA and local politicians? They dont want this outlawed. Its an ole time ting that they tryin a keep yet use any excuse to blame an ex pat for not upholding the law when his own men buy numbers. What a farce

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just make it legal. Concentrate un uncles sexually abusing their nieces.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you listen to the Commissioner comments and still think the Bill should not be passed immediately you should have your head examined.

      Are we going to wait for another life to be loss before we act.

      The Elderly should not be wasting their money on numbers. Shame on anyone who thinks they really supplement their income by gambling. They are wasting their money on gambling.

      Pass the Bill now. It will be a real deterrent and allow the police to focus on other crimes.

  8. Beaumont Zodecloun says:

    A significant amount of we, the people, are involved in gambling. We all know this. Even if we aren’t involved, we are not going to give up our folk to the police. The RCIPS know this. The only crime, imo, is the criminal activity which sometimes accompanies the numbers runners and their principals.

    There is a very simple solution, and one that benefits the country: CIG should have their own national lottery. Most people bet on lottos from other countries. Let us bet on our own lottery. Those that are going to bet will continue. Those that are against it will continue. At least this way, the government benefits, and hopefully that will carry us through. It will remove the criminal element.

    The same is true, imo, for legalisation, packaging and sales of ganja, however that’s a topic for another conversation; one which I hope is soon in coming.

  9. Anonymous says:

    RCIPS aren’t focused on any of their crime fighting duties. If we want to air confessions, that is it. Byrne’s vacation needs to end and we need to replace him with someone who will do the job we are paying for. His self-ascribed performance target of “Stable” crime has led to an escalation in crime and dangerously eroded confidence in the service. Drivers don’t even pull over for police cars with their sirens going.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The problem that you have when listening to a politician is they are going to tell you what they think will make you vote for them, not necessarily what you need to hear. That is why Alden is on the “poor senior citizen” argument. But Waynes deception is much worse, he is feeding us this “we are doomed” story, because the Governor wants this legislation pushed through, and even threatened to do another Section 81 on us (The Governor may have legit reasons, lets not discount that). But Wayne wont say that, instead he tries to make us believe this is his “crime fighting plan”, when we know Wayne is not the brightest or swiftest, and he is just waffling along trying to survive daily coup attempts. This bill wont cure any crime, it will not be a deterrent especially in the face of all that corruption, that sustains the gambling here and will continue to do so. Feel good crime bills are just that, and to Aldens credit, all this will do it give a few easily caught senior citizens criminal records.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why wouldnt you discourage elderly on fixed incomes from attempting to supplement their income with gambling. I can’t respect Alden’s stance on this. Makes me wonder how does Alden benefit from this illegal lottery for him to take such an irresponsible stance. If your grandmother is on a fixed income and you think her gambling with that is a smart idea then you are an idiot plain and simple. Instead of creating and promoting investment vehicles and educational programs on financial literacy you rather watch them give away their pensions to Jamaica and honduras. And when that old lady plays and hits and they won’t pay her out, who does she go to to make sure she can get her money? You’re telling me you can’t come up with a creative legislative solution to protect old ladies while removing organized crime? Alden really talks as if there are no sensible people listening.

    Alden sounds like an grade a I diot right about now.

  12. Unhappy Caymanian says:

    LOL you can’t make this SH** up.

  13. Pastor Alfredo says:

    Follow the money.

    Anyone advocating to keep numbers illegal when it’s so widespread to the point that RCIPS officers, MLAs and “little old caymanian ladies” are the ones regularly playing it is either directly or indirectly benefitting from its current setup.

    Pastor Alfredo

    • Anonymous says:

      I know someone that smokes, sells and grows ganja here. I saw them commenting on facebook article to advocate AGAINST legal production of cannabis here, at least for medical use.

      When asked why, “When weed eventually becomes legal I won’t be able to sell my homegrown for $25 a gram or flip Jamaican pounds for $100 USD to $1600 KYD anymore.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Premier Panton was trying to increase criminal consequences relating to gambling contraventions, because there are significant money laundering offences that are serious AML exposures for the Cayman Islands.

    Given that there will be an assessment at a FAFT plenary meeting next month (February 2023) as to whether or not the Cayman Islands is compliant with the remaining FAFT action point, which is the prosecution of money laundering offences, it appears that this was an effort made to prop up our jurisdiction’s position by increasing the consequences for statutory violations relating to gambling.

    Since there will be a Parliament-initiated referendum, which the PACT Government intends to bring, concerning legalization of a lottery and decriminalization of cannabis, it seems a bit premature to increase criminal penalties for gambling before the Caymanian voters have had there say a the polls in the near future.

    Perhaps such amendment might help the Minister of Financial Services, Hon. Andre Ebanks, and the Attorney General, Hon. Samuel W. Bulgin KC, at the FAFT Plenary next month, with the intent of getting the Cayman Islands off the grey-list. However, this was very poor timing.

    Despite the above comments, I have to say that Commissioner Byrne did have very good points that were made and, especially his emphasis on upholding the rule of law, protecting the public from violent and serious crimes (including murder) and combating various money laundering offences, was very impactful and needs to be given due regard and respect it deserves.

    However, we should let the referendum be held first and, thereafter, revisit this topic, especially since we’ve waited this long. This is not about appeasing the FATF and international community (including European Parliament), who will inevitably move the goalposts, once again, in the future, as they always do.

    It’s important to comply with international legal obligations, but it’s also of essential importance for Members of Parliament to do what’s in the best interests of the Caymanian people, who voted them into Parliament.

    That being said, money laundering is an evil decay in society, which destroys the moral fabric of society, and we must do all we can to eradicate it from the Cayman Islands, both domestically and internationally, as well as any contributions to the problem, both directly and indirectly. In a nutshell, we need to take the profit out of crime.

    • Anonymous says:

      8:58 pm
      Take the profit out of crime. Has any study or investigation been carried out on foreign investors? When the .caymanians goes to a bank to open an account you have to give information from conception up to the present time. It is always the locals that suspicion is on and they are run through the mill. Look in the mirror and see all crimes and deal with them accordingly.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I do not agree with the past Premier comments. He is actually saying “if we can’t beat them then join them” please do not encourage these people. I think higher fines and more jail time should be implemented. Stamping out the illegal gambling should be the top priority; it will not get better by making it legal. In fact that will only be more of the same. If ” little old women and men” commit the crime then they should be prepared to be do the time. Breaking the law is just that- breaking the law. It shouldn’t matter who they are.

  16. Candid says:

    Some politicians have wooden heads and never learn. You increased penalties for firearms offences astronomically because you thought people would stop possessing firearms. You ended up incarcerating mostly Caymanians while tourists get probation. Alden is right. The numbers game is too entrenched in society to be stopped. Legalize it! It is not like numbers players are stealing money – which some people I know are doing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    When you criminalize what people want, you create an opportunity for organized crime.
    The mafia evolved as a result of the ban on alcohol in the US.

    The stubbornness of politicians, fundamentalist religious idiots and there naïve followers, are to blame.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s probably less the lottery tickets and gambling, and more the unregulated credit extended by gangs to participate. That’s how they constrict around addicts to gradually own their ass. Despite the admission of known extortion, racketeering, and kingpins, no crime bosses have been arrested locally in a generation. Police won’t even go in their controlled neighborhoods. Explain that truce agreement, and who signed it, mister CoP…

  19. Anonymous says:

    Journalist gallery should genuinely ask what law enforcement sections (or lines) the RCIPS feel they are good at. Let’s get those in writing against the library of disregarded. He doesn’t even realize he needs to go.

  20. Anonymous says:

    “…the authorities believe that the illegal gambling sector is worth around $30-50 million per year, which the commissioner said was a conservative estimate..”

    …” one of the main demographics playing numbers was elderly Caymanians hoping to win a little something to supplement their meagre pensions…”

    Over $100,000.00 per day being wagered and one of the main demographics is elderly Caymanians hoping to supplement their meager pensions?

    This just doesn’t add up.

    • Pastor Alfredo says:

      I thought the same. Let’s keep it simple and say there are 50,000 adults in Cayman. For the numbers game to be worth $50m a year every single adult needs to be wagering $1,000 a year on it. I don’t believe that’s likely.

      At least if it’s legalised the government could drop the vig that the gangs are currently layering into the payout ratios. I don’t play it but I’m told people get paid out at 6-1 or 7-1 odds on something that has the equivalent of a 10-1 chance of coming in. That’s a terrible payout and guaranteed to keep you poor in the long run. Even if government took it on and started paying out 8-1 on the 10-1 chance they’re still raking 20% and making money hand over fist, the little old caymanian ladies get increased payouts if they win to supplement their meagre pension income and the overround cash generated from the numbers game ($10m profit using the assumptions above) *might* get put to good use (yes, I know) instead of ending up in the hands of a small number of criminals.

      Pastor Alfredo

  21. Anonymous says:

    Alden playing to gallery again

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Sir Alden, get this stupid bill tossed now!

    • Anonymous says:

      Here is a wonderful idea, legalize gambling and make Honorable Bush the Czar in charge once he retires from the house. He certainly has experience with the topic and would be a huge draw so government can make lots of money off it. Just look at the adds on the TV for the sports betting, imagine the possibilities. Lets have some comments on this please everyone.

  22. Anonymous says:

    After 6 years in the post Commissioner finally speaks and tells us what is well known. He has been in vacation mode collecting a fat salary and pension but not addressed core issues about crime prevention or a national crime strategy in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      YES! ‘Needed to do more, I didn’t, I’m sorry…’ BAD answer Chief! You neglected to do your job while being paid a grand salary – resign NOW! You are incompetent by your own admission.

      • Anonymous says:

        “… Time was needed to discuss…”

        Code for “we will do NOTHING!”

        What a waste of money and resources and time. Cayman – we are a total sh.t mess.

      • Anonymous says:

        How can he arrest his own officers and other high up officials selling and buying numbers? It is tolerated by everyone including the MPs. It’s not little old ladies they are protecting, it’s themselves. I know someone who sells in plain sight every day same place. My ex spends all of his money on gambling including child support. I told the Judges in Maintenance Court and the Police and they do absolutely nothing. I don’t believe in legalizing it unless government is prepared to take child support out of it. The same with all of the other addicts who don’t support their families. Gambling is a cancer like drugs that need to be rooted out of society.

    • WAC says:

      Sadly, just here to collect his lucrative retirement package.

    • Anonymous says:

      At least he has the brass to admit it, unlike the topics the “government” hides from..

  23. Anonymous says:

    RCIPS are useless!

    • Anonymous says:

      They are busy enforcing traffic laws.

      • Anonymous says:

        I can promise you, they are not. They are, for the most part, a scam.

        Ask yourselves, how does the Prime Minister of England get fined based on video evidence of him not wearing a seatbelt, and yet our police refuse or fail to do anything based on video or photographic evidence? Not enough, they claim?

        They can go to hell, apart from the fact they are taking us with them.

      • Anonymous says:

        Unless you are an MLA “tired” on your way home from “the office”.

  24. Anonymous says:

    We will just add it to the long list of RCIPS failures…

  25. G says:

    Man sir Alden is more out of touch than I thought. :/

  26. Anonymous says:

    The widening income disparity and cost of living are likely moreso to blame.

  27. Anonymous says:

    The most concerning thing about the meeting was that Kenneth and Wayne appear to be at odds over the Bill. It’s clear Kenneth does not support the Bill and the discussions around collective responsibility were very eye opening as it is clear Kenneth has no clue what collective responsibility really means! This PACT situation gets more and more worrying by the day.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Just advising of the wrongly added ‘gambling’ typo in the headline CNS, – 👍

  29. Anonymous says:

    What a joke. How hard would it be to have an undercover police buy numbers. I do give the COP credit for being honest about not giving any priority to enforcing the law because the penalty is so minor.


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