New democratic right may be tested with lottery

| 06/10/2009

(CNS): Cayman’s first people initiated referendum, a provision in the new Constitution, could be over the introduction of a national lottery. Gilbert McLean, former minister of health and latterly a talk show presenter on Rooster’s morning phone in show, has begun a petition that he will be presenting to government requesting a referendum over the creation of a local lottery to raise revenue for government and redirect the money which is currently illegally spent on numbers here in Cayman or spent in the US, in particular the Florida state lottery – the model McLean wants the Cayman lottery to follow if people vote for it.

Having long divided the community between those who are utterly opposed and those who believe we are missing an obvious and harmless revenue raising measure, McLean hopes to collect signatures from 25% of registered electors in order to trigger a people’s initiated referendum, as provided  for in Cayman’s new Constitution, which will be implemented on 6 November of this year.

If the former politician can generate enough supporters, Cayman will find out once and for all if there are more people for the lottery or against — a question that has remained unanswered because support has been drowned out by the vociferous objections from the church.

McLean stated that a formal survey authorized by government around ten years ago, which included the private sector, estimated that illegal “numbers” gaming produced almost one million dollars per week, and some believe it might reasonably have doubled by now.

Asking for a straight forward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ballot on the question, McLean will have to collect almost 3,500 signatures from registered voters to trigger the right to ask for a referendum. However, once collected, government will be obligated to set the ballot, and if a majority of voters say “yes”, the government will be free to establish a national lottery without necessarily losing support from those against it.

McLean said the petition was now in circulation collecting signatures of voters only, and said that on Monday morning’s Crosstalk Show, Bush stated he would accept the petition on the subject and take steps to cause a Referendum to be held if a majority of voters should say they want it. However, as noted, Bush’s permission will not be required if McLean can gain enough votes in accordance with section part IV section 70 of the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009.

Although gambling remains controversial, the problem for places that maintain a ban is that illegal gambling fills the void and criminalises not just those involved in its management but players as well. Attracting criminal gangs, disputes over territory and cash are often resolved with violence, while some argue that legalising will take it from the hands of criminals and enable government to direct profits to good causes.

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  1. Sarah says:

    I don’t understand how raffles are allowed and a lottery isn’t.  Most weeks I am asked to purchase a raffle ticket for a school, even religious schools, or other organisation.

    For the Cayman Islands to have a lottery, inded the prizes would be lower but the odds would be HIGH!

    It’s not just the Floriday lottery that people of the islands contribute to, but also the European and UK lotteries that I know of. Keep the money in Cayman, have it spent wisely and we’ll be stepping that bit closer out of debt soon.


  2. Joe Average says:

    Make that two dollars

    I didn’t know there weren’t that many people here

  3. Joe Average says:

    I think it would be far less complicated if everyone sent me a dollar. 

    I guarantee it will be used wisely.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Four points:

    1) We should not think small. A properly organised and carefully thought through lottery could take advantage of a global market. Given that,

    2) If a legal lottery is created it should be handled by one or more properly accredited and licensed entities with government being paid an annual fee plus a percentage of gross revenue – just the way the telephone companies pay government at present. If we were smart we could even invite bids from appropriately qualified persons/businesses and offer say two licenses to the highest bidders – those who offer to pay the most. Licenses could be for 5 or even 10 years with the option of renewal.

    3) We should maximise the use of technology. By way of example, there is no reason why the phone companies could not be involved with payment for tickets being made by direct debit from existing phone accounts. That way people would not necessarily need to go to a particular outlet if they did not want to. Phones with embedded electronic cash could also be used at retailers. Phones with embedded cash has been used for years in Europe. Online technologies are also readily available.

    3) A separate authority, the board members of which are prohibited from having any type of conflict whatsoever (including Party membership) and who can only be appointed unanimously by the LA, should oversee the "Lottery Commission" on behalf of the Cayman people – not government. One of the challenges of introducing a lottery is that corrupt politicians and their cronies will look at it as a get rich quick scheme. If a lottery is to produce an actual benefit for the people of Cayman, we need to be sure that our cleptocratic politicians are kept as far from it as possible. It is bad enough that our politicians will likely waste the profits that they receive. Perhaps some of the lottery profits should be placed in a special trust like the one Norway has created to prevent its politicians from frittering away its oil profits.

    The only problem I foresee with the above is that if the politicians don’t see personal profit in it, it may never see the light of day even with a positive referendum. Maybe we will need to put in a section that 5% goes directly to top up their pensions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Abslutely agree.  While I realise we’re thinking of raising revenue to alleviate the country’s financial situation there’s no way any politician or their agents should have direct access to it.  Individual, independent board or commission should decide how to distribute to government provided a comprehensive and properly thought out business plan is presented… and perhaps it should be reserved for costs for educational and other developments that directly benefit the young people of Cayman.  Quite like the Trust idea.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lottery sounds good.

        I also think another blockbuster film like, "The Firm," with Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman needs to be produced. This movie is what made me take the trips I’ve taken to the Cayman Islands. I bought the movie "Haven," with Orlando Blum and Zoe Saldana, which, I also thought was a good film.

        IMO, movies tend to make landmark places. At least most of the time.

  5. Lotty Ree says:

    Wake up!  There is no way that a Cayman lottery will raise significant funds because the prize money it will offer will never rival larger games by reason of pure economy of scale.

    This is a waste of time and money.  Has anyone produced a realistic business model put together by someone with experience of the lottery industry?  Or would acting on the basis of experience and planning be a dangerous step for the Cayman Islands?

    • Anonymous says:

      The numbers racket is reputed to be making hundreds of thousands per month in profit with the limited prizes it offers. I would rather see any profit from such activities going to pay down government’s debt, rather than going as payoffs to the (other) crooks.

      • Anon says:

        That’s my understanding too – and I’m sure more people would play if it was a legal lottery than are currently playing illegally.

  6. tim ridley says:

    The economic case for a purely national lottery is weak, the more so if it is to offer attractive prize money and to produce significant net revenue for the Government and good causes in the community The Fiscal Advisory Group prepared a detailed analysis of this several years ago for the Government of the day. The Group concluded that the only way to make the lottery work would be to "bolt" it on to someone else’s lottery (such as Camelot in the UK or the Florida lottery) and that carried with it a number of other complications.

    If the Islands are ready to embrace gambling (and there are many reasons why they should not be), the best economic case is for casinos with Government through a Gaming Board overseeing the industry and charging licence fees. The Bahamas for instance raises around US$15 million per annum in casino licence fees.

  7. unknowncaymanian says:

    I think that the lotto should be legalised here in the Cayman Islands. All of these people talking bout this is a Christian Island & gambling should not be allowed here…….Its like saying we have all of these bars & niteclubs on the island but no one is telling you, "Look these bars & niteclubs are here & i am telling you to go an drink now!"

    Aint no one forcing anybody to go a play the lotto……. if you dont want to do it simply dont do it , it aint hurting you. Cayman needs to make some money back & this would surely help out the state these islands are in.

  8. LOL says:

    The nay-sayers overslept, I believe… 

  9. Mozzie Fodder says:

    Couple of points:

    The islands have 70,000 people. Some are children who shouldn’t be allowed to play. Some are already very rich and don’t need to play and some are very poor and can’t afford to play. Not everyone who can play, will play. Can expats play too? How much per ticket? 

    I would guesstimate that only 20,000 people would play so not much of a Jackpot there…….. once they realise this that number will dwindle further. You need a population of millions to make a National Lottery attractive to play; we just don’t have that here.

    • Anonymous says:

      no expats not allowed to play

      • Dick Shaughneary says:

        So you are saying expats are allowed to play or are you unaware of the effect of double negatives?


    • Anonymous says:

      The world has a population of billions. Why should we limit sales to the population of Cayman. I know that our IT infrastructure is not the most modern but it should be able to handle some online sales – other than to Americans of course as they would not be allowed to play.

    • Anon says:

      According to the Economics & Statistics Office our population as at the end of 2008 was 57,009.  76.3% aged 15-64 and 5% 65 and over.   So lets say 80% (45,607.2) adult population.  In the UK, roughly 70% of the adult population regularly play the lottery. 10% of the revenue raised from tickets goes back into running costs.  Even if only 50% of our adult population played we’d be looking at 22,803.6.  If those 22,803.6 people bought just one lottery ticket a week at CI$1.00 we would have a weekly revenue of CI$22,803.6/yearly revenue of CI$1,185,787.2.  Even if our running costs were as much as the UK (which I doubt) at 10%, this would still leave net revenue at CI$1,067,208.48…. I wouldn’t look a gift horse like that in the mouth.  And these figures are based on one person buying just one ticket – I believe some will buy more than one on a regular basis so my figures here really are bottom-line/worst case scenario.

      Rich people play the lottery just as much as poor people worldwide – they don’t decide not to play because they already have plenty of money, they see an opportunity to get even more money.  Likewise, poor people do not decline to play because they are poor, they save a dollar and take a chance in the hope that they can speculate to accumulate and change their fortunes.  Many of the people playing the lottery in the UK are poor people hoping and praying for a miracle – a chance to become wealthy – thats just human nature.

      I hope ex-pats would be allowed to play too – they would be helping give back to the Cayman economy – and surely that is not a bad thing.  The chances of winning the UK lottery are very slim given the size of their population: overall odds of winning any prize is 52.65514 to 1.  As you have pointed out, Cayman is small… meaning more chances of winning.  Prizes should be based on ticket sales.  A small piece of the revenue in my opinion should go towards charitable initiatives and organisations.

      So in comparison with some of our governments proposals, contrary to your opinion, I would say this was quite realistic and could generate a substantial amount of revenue not just while we get over our financial crisis, but perpetually into the future.  Surely thats not a bad thing?



      • Mozzie Fodder says:

        A good counter argument and I don’t disagree with the idea and it’s revenue generating potential. I just don’t see the revenue stream being big enough for running costs, Government cut, charitible contributions and then prizes. However, there is potential for massive rollovers in prizes as with a reduced number of players the Jackpot will be difficult to win – maybe I am convinced after all……

        Sadly I have been in a UK Post Office watching poor and vulnerable people collecting benefits and immediately buying scratchcards and lottery tickets. This lottery will bring with it an addiction that whilst the well off can afford it here and there, the less well off cannot.

        • Anon says:

          The UK National Lottery returns a higher proportion of lottery revenue back to society than any other lottery operator in the world through prizes and Lottery Duty (totalling 40 per cent of sales).

          Revenue stream could be calculated in set percentages pro rata to ticket sales, similar to the UK model – that way the costs could never exceed the revenue.  In the UK model, prizes are paid as a tax-free lump sum.  For every pound spent, Camelot receives 4.5% to cover operating costs and 0.5% profit, 50% goes to the prize fund; 28% goes to good causes; 12% to the Government and 5% to the retailers as commission for selling the tickets.  (I must have gotten my earlier 10% figure wrong!)  We don’t have to use their split however as we are not proposing to have a lottery for the same reasons they do.  We should formulate our own split based on the country’s needs.

          Regarding the poor and vulnerable, I dont think we’re really any different here with the (illegal) numbers game.

  10. Anonymous says:

     It’s about darn time they start a national lottery here in Cayman…everyonewas playing numbers anyway from the Preacher right down to the Police & all the MLAs.  

    To all those so call Christians pls  STOP being hypocrites for when Church is over on Sundays everybody be asking "What number played today?  


    • Anonymous says:

      08:22   So true, your comments………It is about darn time that!!!!!!

      More than half of the population is either buying or selling Lottery tickets.  We got Police and church decons buying while MLA,s are selling.  So what.?   Think you know what is going on, check the hot spots on Sunday morning, and be outside church sunday afternoon.  Everyone is asking "Waa ye say play"?   Its not too much about how much we will make in revenue, but it will sure put money in government pocket book instead of it going overseas every Monday morning.  To tell you the truth I would rather spend ten or twenty dollars on a Government lottery ticket than a private illegal lottery.  Seriously thinking about I would  prefer to give the money to the government, where in the end it would benefit the people of the Cayman Islands.   Thousands of dollars are made weekly by sellers and buyers.  Most people who would be against it would be persons who are the Lottery Bankers, they are the one who are making the killing.   

  11. Anonymous says:

    Has any one considered the cost of implementing a lottery, buying ticket machines, maintaining them, printing the tickets?  Who oversees the program once it’s started, collects the money from the ticket vendors, invests the money until it is dispersed? If the winner doesn’t take a lump sum, but opts for payments who oversees that?  Who decides how the Goverment will spend it’s share?  Sounds like a whole new branch of civil servants to watch over it, they’ll probably need government vehicles too.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Where do I sign ? Is it available for signatures in the Brac ?

    • I think that the lotto will be good for the country, we do it now  by selling numbers and all the assets go to Honduras or Belize, so why not keep it here, do it right and keep the proceeds. By having the legal lotto you may have more people playing it like the tourist.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Now that the people of the Cayman islands have a means of making change perhaps someone can initiate a referendum to have new elections… we only need 25% of voters.. people wake up before we loose the little we have left for ourchildren and grandchildren..


    LETS START A REFERUNDUM TO CALL NEW ELECTIONS to have decent educated people as our goverment representatives.

  14. Unidentified says:

    Is there any country in the western world that does NOT have a National lottery?

    I believe once established, the church congregations will participate too, money does that to people somehow………………

    • S. A. Tan says:

      "…church congregations will participate too."

      In the slot machine or in the offering tray.  Where’s your better chance of payback?

  15. Anonymous says:

    But what then would happen to the various stores that openly sell numbers like that one by the WB police station????? Talk about under the noses!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      What then would happen to the civil servants in the brac who are openly selling numbers (to church goers too) and then building all kinds of houses and apartments – you know those investments cannot be made on their government salaries alone.

  16. Caymanians for Good says:

    Putting this to referendum is a waste of money.

    The referenda will show YES. Our politicians just do not have the will to make this happen for fear of upsetting their church.

    Come on guys, the first thing folks ask for coming out of church is “What number played?”….there is enough gaming going on in Cayman now that this is a perfect revenue source….it also will cut out some of the related crime.

    Be bold…just do it. Save the referendum money for something that needs true consensus like dredging in North Sound!!

    • Anon says:

      I soooooo agree with you 12.20 it really does seem a waste of money.  Most of the people who play the numbers game on my street are the regular churchgoers of our community.  It seems so odd in the circumstances that the same people would object against a lottery! 

  17. Anonymous says:

    I believe Cayman should have a National Lottery, far too many years have gone by with the residents of this country playing both the Hounduran "numbers" game and the national and state lotto’s from other countries.

    Its time we pump some of those funds back into our own economy.

    Aside from that we should look at the fact that should a Caymanian win the lotto more than likely those funds would be re-invested right back into Cayman.


  18. Anonymous says:

    If Cayman establishes a lottery it will be like Boatswain Beach, Pedro Castle, Cayman Airways and the Botanic Park. All are subsidized and a constant drain on the public purse which calls for more and more taxes. For those who think gambling and lotteries bring in vast sums of money, then look at Southt Florida and see the benefits they have from this.

    Contrary to popular belief, not all 70,000 Cayman residents buy lottery tickets or illegal numbers.

  19. Anonymous says:

    He should have done this with Pirates Week, have a referendum

  20. Lachlan MacTavish says:

    Gambling…controversial…..we already ready have gambling. Numbers, lotteries and place any bet you want on the island. So instead of posturing and being anti lottery because you think this is what your congregations want why not embrace new income streams that create relief for your congregations. 

  21. Richard Wadd says:

     Please also include the ‘Pirates Week’ issue in this referendum.

    The decision of Pirates Week should be for the MAJORITY of the people of Cayman.


    • Anonymous says:

      Well well well

      This is the first set of comments I have heard that has been completly in agreement with each other. Maybe there is a unifying issue in this country.