After a slow start, construction of the casino at the Divi Carina Bay Resort is going fast and is on schedule to open on time in December.
On-island Wednesday to gauge the progress of St. Croix’s first casino, Bernie Burkholder, president and chief executive officer of Treasure Bay Corp., said he was confident the doors would be open in December.
"Any fears I’ve had in that area have been dealt with," he said. "At this point I’m very confident we’ll hit the opening date."
Grapetree Shores Inc., which owns the resort and casino,has hired a Divi Resorts affiliate to manage the hotel. Grapetree is leasing the casino operation to Treasure Bay V.I. Corp., a local affiliate of Treasure Bay Corp., which operates a 66,000-square-foot casino in Biloxi, Miss.
Burkholder said the casino building, which is across the street from the main resort building, will be "weathertight" in about 10 days, allowing crews to begin interior work. Barring unforeseen problems, construction should remain ahead of schedule.
Burkholder said training of local residents for casino jobs was moving ahead as well. After their stint at the V.I. government-run casino training school is completed on Dec. 3, employees will receive on-the-job training.
That includes non-gaming jobs, such as food and beverage services, customer service and internal control.
"I have every confidence that the local people will be ready," Burkholder said. "We never contemplated that the V.I. government would have to bear the full burden for (training.)"
The remodeled Divi Carina Bay Resort, located on Grapetree Bay on St. Croix’s southeast shore, will have 150 rooms and four villas. The 10,000-square-foot casino is planned to have 275 slot machines, 12 gaming tables and employ in excess of 150 people. A buffet, snack bar and gift shop are also planned for the two-story building.
Burkholder predicted that the casino would be a "spectacular" setting not only for gaming but for live entertainment and dining.
"It is my hope … to have this be a very fun property for not only visitors from off-sland, but residents as well," he said.
While the refurbished resort and new casino will have a positive effect on St. Croix’s ailing economy, Burkholder stressed that it would not be "an end-all." He did say, though, that it might well lead to other investors coming to the island with similar projects.
"I really think that this will be the start," he said. "It’s a step in revitalizing St. Croix."
The V.I. Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 was established to encourage badly needed hotel room construction and renovation on St. Croix, as well as to provide more jobs.
The last major hotel development on the island was the Carambola Beach Resort, just prior to Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Before that storm, St. Croix had 26 hotels and 1,074 rooms. Currently, there are 21 hotels with about 895 rooms.


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