(CMR) Harsher penalties, including bigger fines and longer incarceration, could be coming for illegal gamblers as the Cayman Islands Government has published the Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and the Proceeds of Crime Act (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order, 2022.
The Bills, published on Monday, 7 November, are now in the period of public consultation and are due to be debated at the next sitting of Parliament, which is expected to be in December 2022.
Enacted initially on 1 January 1964, the Gambling Act has essentially remained unchanged for nearly 59 years. Amendments were made to the legislation in 2015, facilitating the registering of cruise ships with casinos on the local shipping registry and also permitting local voluntary organizations, churches, and service clubs to hold lawful raffles.
Premier Wayne Panton JP, MP, stated that the legislation related to illegal gambling is proposed to be amended in line with Government’s efforts to foster safer communities in the Cayman Islands and to disincentivize illegal gambling crimes from reoccurring:
“Over the past few years, our community has seen a sharp increase in the rate of violent crimes linked to illegal gambling, including armed robberies and murder. The rising crime and hidden societal implications of gambling, in general, are enabled through the current legislation that provides little to no deterrence for one – off or repeat offenders,” said Premier Panton.
“The fine for offenses under section 4 of the current Act (including keeping a common gaming house) is $400 or 12 months imprisonment, while an offense under section 5 of the current Act (committing an act of illegal gambling) is a $10 fine or two months imprisonment” he added.
Under the new legislation, it has also been proposed to add the crime of gambling/crimes related to gambling to Schedule 1 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (2020 Revision). Currently, Schedule 1 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (“POCA”) mirrors Schedule 2 of the UK legislation, with slight changes on where gambling is regulated. By adding gambling to Schedule 1 of the POCA, it makes all gambling offenses a lifestyle offense.
This amendment to the POCA will also allow for confiscation orders to be made by the Courts in the case where one is found to have taken part in or facilitated illegal gambling activity.
“While there is an obvious link between illegal gambling and the various types of serious crimes resulting from organized gambling, less obvious are the costs to law enforcement and the wider society, the social costs of gambling at an individual and familial level are sometimes referred to as “hidden costs” due to the fact that they are often misunderstood or overlooked. It is, therefore imperative that we enact legislative measures to deter gambling and the long-term effects it has on the health and safety of our communities, our integrity as people, and the jurisdiction’s reputation for good governance and upholding the rule of law,” Premier Panton added.
Attorney General Hon. Samuel Bulgin KC, JP, emphasized that the Bill sought to meet Government’s improvement of current legislation and consistency with the rule of law:
“As Attorney General, I welcome the approval of the Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and support the Cabinet and RCIPS’ success in improving our current legislation surrounding illegal gambling. The proposed amendments support Government’s broad outcomes, predominantly strengthening good governance for more effective government and promoting the stronger enforcement of current legislation. This includes changing our current culture surrounding crime through increased enforcement as well as disincentivizing those involved in certain activity that often acts as an allurement to people prone to committing violent crimes,” Mr Bulgin stated.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Derek Byrne, also affirmed how the increase in penalties under the new Bill will assist the RCIPs tremendously as they continue to work to reduce rates of illegal gambling and prioritize the safety of the Cayman Islands community.
“The increased sanctions and fines for a range of illegal gambling offenses contained in the new Bill will act as a very strong deterrent to disincentivize those persons that engage in illegal gambling across the Cayman Islands,” he stated.
“This relates to sellers of illegal lottery numbers and persons engaged in illegal gambling and betting, including persons who support or purchase lottery numbers for illegal lotteries. Illegal gambling in the Cayman Islands, in all of its forms, mainly occurs at street level and is very visible in our local communities, impacting our most vulnerable,” said Mr. Byrne.
“The enhanced powers and sanctions provided will assist the police to tackle this problem and go after the proceeds of illegal gambling, confiscating assets obtained from the criminal proceeds of illegal gambling and betting. There is a significant amount of serious crime associated with illegal gambling in the Cayman Islands, including assaults, robberies, intimidation, and, more recently, there has been a related murder. Illegal gambling in all of its forms has a very unwelcome and pervasive influence on the most vulnerable in our communities, and this Bill sends a very strong message to all those engaged in this criminal activity,” Mr Byrne concluded.
In 2018, the Government drafted the Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which set out to improve and strengthen the current legislation, specifically in the area of increasing penalties for illegal gambling. While the Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was published, the bill was never placed on the Order Paper to be debated in Parliament, and therefore provisions in the current legislation remain in effect.
What are the changes?
Under the new Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2022, penalties are proposed to increase for a range of general gambling offenses, including the use and ownership of premises for gambling, the publication of lottery numbers, and dealing with money resulting from gambling activities. The fine for committing such offenses would increase from KYD$400 to $10,000, and the term of imprisonment from one year to four years or both.
Other penalties are as follows:
-the penalty for playing in or being found in a common gaming house, taking part in a public lottery, being found gambling or betting in licensed premises, or for failure to prove that a person was not in possession of a lottery ticket would be $2,500 and six months imprisonment or both;
-the penalty for using a place for gambling without permission is $5,000 and one-year imprisonment or both;
-the penalty for committing any gambling activity involving selling tickets or paying out for lottery tickets would be $5,000 and one-year imprisonment or both;
-the penalty for attending or assembling in any public or private place for the purpose of ascertaining or waiting for lottery results would be $2,500 and six months imprisonment or both;
-the penalty for refusing to demolish a place erected or constructed for gambling where so ordered by a judge would also be $5,000 and one-year imprisonment, and a $100 fine for each day there is noncompliance with this order;
-the penalty for keeping a common gaming house or for conducting or taking part in a lottery would be $20,000 and four-years imprisonment or both.
The Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2022 can be found at https://legislation.gov.ky/cms/bills/bills-by-year.html
Anonymous tips can be provided directly to the RCIPS via the Confidential Tip Line at 949-7777 or through the police website: www.rcips.ky/submit-a-tip.