Minimal interest in foreign lottery records

  • Paradise Games was accused of illegally offering overseas lottery tickets but charges were never brought by the police (File photograph)

    Paradise Games was accused of illegally offering overseas lottery tickets but charges were never brought by the police (File photograph)

The Information Commissioner has upheld a decision by the police not to release records on the sale of foreign lottery tickets at a betting shop because there was “minimal” public interest.

Gitanjali Gutierrez said: “There is no evidence that the safety of the public is at risk. Further, disclosure would contribute very little to the public interest in promoting a greater public understanding of the Bermuda Police Service’s decision-making or processes.”

Paradise Games was reported to have been under police investigation in 2014 for the alleged illegal sale of Florida Lottery Powerball and Mega Millions tickets at its Court Street premises, but no charges were ever brought by police against owner Marc Bean, then the leader of the Progressive Labour Party.

A legal opinion on the sale of the lottery tickets was obtained in 2016 by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission as it probed the island’s gambling industry.

Anthony Cabot, then a partner at a leading Las Vegas law firm, 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.

Mr Bean told The Royal Gazette in May 2018 there was nothing illegal about the practice, which was why his shop still offered the service at that point and why other betting shops sold lottery tickets from other countries, including Triple Crown Racing on Victoria Street, in Hamilton.

He said: “If the authorities — the law — tell us it is illegal, we will cease and desist. No one ever has. An opinion coming from someone in the States doesn’t apply to us.”

The Royal Gazette asked the police to release correspondence under public access to information between the Commissioner of Police and/or the Assistant Commissioner of Police and Paradise Games, based on Court Street in Hamilton.

The request was rejected in August and October 2018, on the ground that disclosure could have an adverse effect on the commercial interests of the business.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley wrote: “I’m satisfied that the public interest test in this instance has been properly applied and that the public interest against disclosing the record outweighs the public interest in favour of disclosing it.”

The Royal Gazette appealed to Ms Gutierrez and she agreed with the police commissioner, in a decision issued in December.

Ms Gutierrez said the police provided the Information Commissioner’s office with a copy of “the withheld record that is responsive to the Pati request, which appears to be a draft of correspondence”.

Ms Gutierrez wrote: “The Information Commissioner accepts that there is a public interest in understanding the BPS’s decision-making with respect to businesses engaging in particular industries.

“There is also a public interest in ensuring that the BPS has performed its law enforcement function appropriately.

“Where a business has been found to have committed an offence, there may also be a public interest in that information being disclosed because it could affect the wellbeing of the public.

“The Information Commissioner agrees with the BPS, however, that it is not in the public interest to disclose a record involving unsubstantiated allegations made against a commercial business in the context of an investigation that never resulted in a criminal prosecution, particularly in circumstances where it is unclear whether the withheld record is a true copy of the correspondence sent to the company.”

She added that the minimal public interests in favour of disclosure did “not outweigh the public interest in ensuring that businesses are able to compete fairly”.

Paradise Games no longer sells tickets for foreign lotteries.

Cornell Bean Sr, the manager of Paradise Games, told the Betting Licensing Authority in March last year that the shop no longer offered multimillion jackpots through US intermediaries for the US Powerball Lottery.

Ms Gutierrez did not name Paradise Games or mention the betting shop industry in her decision.

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Published Feb 27, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 27, 2020 at 9:03 am)

Minimal interest in foreign lottery records

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