(CMR) Commissioner of Police Derek Bryne said illegal gambling is a pervasive issue in the Cayman Islands, which must be addressed soon, or it could affect Cayman's reputation internationally. The multi-million dollar industry is attracting permit workers who are entering the Cayman Islands to earn extra cash from the lucrative side hustle.
In fact, the Commissioner said the illicit proceeds from illegal gambling are estimated to be somewhere between CI$30 million to 50 million per year, with much of it leaving the islands through money mules.
Some of this money is also laundered through small businesses, the Commissioner said.
“This is a real problem. Of all the problems you have in the Cayman Islands, illegal gambling is a significant problem. And I am strongly urging that something is done and done speedily as possible to address it,” Mr. Bryne said in addressing Parliament's Joint Select Committee on the Gambling Amendment (2022) Bill last week.
The Commissioner called on lawmakers to implement stronger penalties to deter illegal gambling, which he said is across all strata of society. He explained that illegal gambling was not just linked to one area of society but involved people from all walks of life, including civil servants.
“I believe that illegal gambling is an organized criminal activity by criminal enterprise. It has international links; it is very apparent in our communities and it involves a significant amount of money laundering,” he stated.
Mr. Byrne is calling for stronger legislation to provide stronger deterrence to deal with all associated criminal activities.
“It is a hugely pervasive criminal activity in the Cayman Islands. Current laws provide little or no deterrent,” the Commissioner reiterated.
He said the illegal gambling is so big in the Cayman Islands that people are coming in on work permits just to be a part of it.
“It's often said to me that they come as gardeners, but in fact, what they are here to do is sell numbers, make money,” Commissioner Byrne said.
Mr. Byrne said there is a high tolerance for illegal gambling in Cayman, and the police had limited power to address the situation.
“I'm also concerned about our reputation internationally, in terms of that we would be seen as weak in our enforcement with any kind of tolerance towards money laundering considering that we're one of the largest global financial centers,” he said.
The Commissioner said if the community fully understands how other illegal activities are associated with illegal gambling, then there would be less tolerance.
Originally enacted 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.
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. Adding gambling to Schedule 1 of the POCA, 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.