(CNS): An amendment to the Gambling Law passed by legislators Wednesday, will facilitate the registration of cruise or other large passenger ships with on-board casinos on the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry and boost business for the growing government earner. Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, who brought the changes, said that although the register was doing well when it came to luxury yachts and other vessels, local gaming laws currently prohibits ships with gambling from registering.
Yesterday’s legislative change removes the application of the law to ships with casinos while in international waters or ports that permit gambling. Although the registry has been interested in the large passenger ships business, it has not been able to take it because of the restrictions.
“Cayman has certain restrictions in place at the moment which mitigate against these vessels coming on the register and one is the gambling law … which currently applies to Cayman vessels wherever they are located in the world. That puts Cayman at a disadvantage in making the shipping registry attractive to passenger ships,” Panton said.
Other well-known registries are getting the ships, he said, because they don’t have restrictions on gambling in international waters. The minister said this was significant business for those registries as each vessel has crews numbering the thousands, which could increase the volume of business and additional fee revenue for Cayman.
“There have been attempts in the past and more recently discussions with cruise operators who are keen to explore the possibility of registering the ships here as they recognize the high quality of the Cayman register and quality is important now in the industry,” he said. But gambling is a significant aspect of their business and so the restriction is blocking the development of revenue.
Panton explained that the amendment was not a change in policy regarding gambling in the Cayman Islands itself and while in local waters the gambling law would still apply to cruise ships. He said safeguards were in the law to ensure ships must be sailing between countries, and the law will not permit a locally based vessel to sail out from Grand Cayman into international waters, open a casino and then come back to port.
“It is not a policy change in respect of the issue of gambling here,” he said when he introduced the bill, noting that it would only allow vessels to operate casinos when at sea outside Cayman waters on an international voyage.
He said the law includes a definition of an “international voyage”, making it clear when and how the law applies.
“We won’t have a situation where a local ship transits international waters and turns around comes back. It has to be two separate states,” he said. “We want to ensure that this is not open to abuse.”