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No comments on sale of Florida lottery tickets

Anthony Cabot

Government House has stonewalled a question about whether it knew the sale of American lottery tickets in Bermuda was branded a potential breach of “numerous” laws in the United States by a top American gambling lawyer.

The Royal Gazettereported last month that a legal opinion on the sale of the Florida Lottery Powerball and Mega Millions tickets at Paradise Games on Court Street was obtained by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission as it probed the island’s gambling industry in 2016.

Anthony Cabot, then a partner at a leading Las Vegas law firm and now a professor of gaming law at the University of Nevada, told the commission the activity appeared to violate “numerous Florida and federal laws” — some designed to stop money-laundering.

The commission forwarded the opinion to Michael Dunkley, then the Premier, and the late Shawn Crockwell, tourism minister at the time, as well as members of the Betting Licensing Authority.

David Burt, now the Premier, was told about it eight months later, while the Opposition leader.

But nothing was done to stop the sale of the tickets, which remain available at Paradise Games.

The Royal Gazette asked John Rankin, the Governor, on May 29 if he or anyone at Government House had been aware of the Cabot memo before the story was published.

Mr Rankin was also asked if any action was taken in relation to the memo or whether the Governor issued any directions to the Bermuda Police Service in connection with a police investigation into lottery ticket sales at betting shops.

Mr Rankin’s private secretary Tanya Davis acknowledged the e-mailed questions but gave no answer.

She wrote on May 31: “Your e-mail has been received and is under consideration.”

There was no response to a follow-up e-mail sent on June 7. Yesterday, in response to a further e-mail, Ms Davis said: “No comment from Government House.”

Similar questions were sent to acting US Consul General Derek Worman.

He replied: “The US Consulate General was not made aware of the memo regarding lottery ticket sales before the story was published.

“At this stage, the matter does not directly involve the consulate as it is an issue for the affected states and not the federal government.”

Mr Cabot’s legal opinion said the lottery ticket sales appeared to violate seven provisions of federal gambling statutes.

A US Consulate General spokeswoman said in a later e-mail: “We haven’t received any official correspondence from the federal government about the memo.

“If, in fact, the federal government confirms that federal laws have been breached then, yes, the matter would go beyond the affected states.

“At this time, we do not have any additional information to provide. If we do receive anything further, we will inform you.”

Marc Bean, the owner of Paradise Games, who was leader of the Progressive Labour Party when the Cabot memo was written, insisted there was nothing illegal about the sale of foreign lottery tickets in Bermuda.

Mr Burt, Mr Dunkley, the Betting Licensing Authority, tourism minister Jamahl Simmons, the gaming commission and the Bermuda Police Service have not responded to requests for comment.