Aug. 8, 2001 – Stating that "jeopardizing the economy of the St. Croix district for the arguable benefits of video lottery gaming is not a good option," Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has vetoed the measure for the second time this year.
"I have again determined that video lottery is not in the best economic and social interest of the territory at this time," Turnbull stated.
This time around the VLT's got a line-item veto, since the proposal was buried in the Senate's voluminously amended version of the governor's supplemental appropriations bill.
News of Turnbull's action came in a release issued at almost midnight Tuesday, as the governor cleaned up the balance of legislation sent him from a three-day mid-July Senate session. The supplemental appropriation bill alone has 114 sections.
The governor said, "The proposed one-half billion dollar Seven Hills and the $180 million Golden Gaming projects, the $70 million expansion of the Divi Carina Bay Casino and others cannot be allowed to be negatively impacted" by VLT's.
Bernie Burkholder, president and CEO of Treasure Bay Gaming and Resorts, which leases the Divi casino and hotel from Grapetree Shores Inc., said recently that an expansion program there was being halted until the governor made a decision. Burkholder also lamented the what he termed the apparent "instability" of gaming laws in the Virgin Islands.
Jeffery Moorhead, attorney for Robin Bay LLC, doing business as Seven Hills Beach Resort and Casino, had said after the Senate passed the VLT enabling legislation that his client was "very disappointed" that the proposal would even surface. But he said the company would hold off pulling out of the territory until Turnbull made a decision.
The VLT veto could face a Senate override attempt. However it may be difficult to muster the 10 votes necessary. Sen. Emmett Hansen II, the newest and ninth member of the majority bloc, and minority Sen. Vargrave Richards have said publicly they would not join an override vote. Minority Sen. David Jones, on the other hand, is a strong VLT supporter.
The Senate unanimously approved the supplemental appropriations bill, including — although some senators later said they hadn't known it — the video lottery bill, 14-0, with Richards off island and excused from the session. The amendment itself, like dozens of others attached to the main bill, was never put to a vote.
Richards has drafted legislation to control gambling laws and give more security to current hotel and casino investors.
Southland Gaming of the V.I., contracted three years ago by the V.I. Lottery Commission to set up and operate VLT's in the territory if and when they were made legal, had waged an ambitious advertising campaign in recent days, inundating the print media and radio waves, with a full-page ad as late as Tuesday. Earlier ads urged people to call Government House. The ads succeeded in that people did call Government House — but virtually all of them did so to voice objections to the VLT's.
According to Rina Jacobs McBrowne, Government House spokeswoman, one caller had said, "If the governor doesn't veto [the VLT's], we'll veto the governor."
Turnbull said in his release, "In reviewing the recommendations, calls and letters from Virgin Islanders from all walks of life, I have again determined that video lottery is not in the best economic and social interest of the territory at this time."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here