After more than a few setbacks in getting the casino training school up and running, 111 newly certified dealers were christened Saturday.
On hand at the graduation ceremony at the St. Croix Educational Complex were managers from the Divi Carina Bay Resort, the prospective employer of the graduates. Along with the resort’s management was a stage full of dignitaries including Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, Senator Vargrave Richards, and Casino Control Commission chairwoman Eileen Petersen.
But the focus was on the audience of 88 blackjack dealers and 23 craps dealers. Fifteen of the graduates received certificates for both roulette and blackjack.
The graduates received high praise for going through two months of intensive gaming training and in return they gave high marks to their instructors, headed by Las Vegas-based Vic Taucer, and to the V.I. government for funding the school.
Newly certified craps dealer Stewart Shulterbrandt, one of three graduates chosen to speak by his classmates, said that thanks to Taucer’s team of instructors, the crop of new dealers are ready for work.
Shulterbrandt recalled a recent visit by the Carnival Destiny cruise ship’s casino dealers.
"We worked out with them," he said. "And we were just as good."
Alan Mallory, general manager of Divi Carina Bay, said the graduates will next go through auditions to test their technical and hospitality skills. The casino will initially hire about one-third of the 111 graduates.
"Then, closer to the opening in February, we’ll evaluate how many are still interested and reevaluate our need," Mallory said.
V.I. law mandates that at the end of the first year of a casino’s operation it must have a workforce of least 65 percent Virgin Islands residents. Mallory said that wouldn’t be a difficult standard to meet.
"We are well in excess of any regulatory requirement," he said.
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 large casino in Biloxi, Miss.
The casino was set to open on Dec. 15, but the date was pushed back after nearly its entire second floor was damaged by Hurricane Lenny on Nov. 17. The damage will delay the opening for 60 to 90 days.
The two-story casino is planned to have 275 slot machines and 12 gaming tables and employ more than 150 people. A buffet, snack bar and gift shop are also planned.


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