Jan. 13, 2003 – The V.I. Democratic Party Territorial Committee weighed in against video lottery gambling at its meeting on Saturday, calling for repeal of a new law allowing the gambling terminals on St. Thomas and St. John. The 24th Legislature in its final session, on Dec. 23, overrode the governor's earlier veto of the measure.
And Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said in his State of the Territory address on Monday night that he would send the Senate legislation to repeal the new law.
"I don't think we want gambling on St. Thomas and St. John without public debate," Democratic Committee member Craig Barshinger said earlier on Monday. "It's too big an issue to come in the back door."
A press release issued Sunday by the Democratic committee said efforts must be made to avoid action that could prevent the development of casino complexes such as the proposed $540 million Seven Hills Beach Resort and Casino at Robin Bay on St. Croix. "Our policy is special emphasis on St. Croix's economic development," reads the resolution adopted by the committee calling for the bill's repeal.
Barshinger said that allowing video lottery terminals on St. Thomas and St. John will give a message that those islands have gambling, rather than focusing on marketing St. Croix as a gaming destination. By law, casinos are allowed only St. Croix.
The issue of video lottery terminals, which are similar to slot machines, just doesn't seem to go away. Turnbull in his first term in office vetoed legislation allowing them into the territory on three different occasions.
In the latest go-round, Sen. Celestino White again brought the issue to the Senate floor in the 24th Legislature's final session and was able to get the 10 votes necessary to override the governor's last veto.
However, Turnbull said on Monday night that he plans to send a bill to the new Senate to repeal video lottery law. "A cloud looms in the form of video lottery terminals," the governor said in his address.
St. Croix Sen. Raymond "Usie" Richards, in televised remarks made after the governor's address, said allowing VLT's on St. Thomas and St. John removes St. Croix's advantage as a visitor destination for those interested in gambling. "It is detrimental to the casino industry on St. Croix," he said, adding that he, too, would sponsor legislation to repeal the video lottery law.
St. Croix Sen. Douglas E. Canton Jr., who voted against the VLT override in December, also said in broadcast remarks on Monday after the governor's address that having video lottery terminals on St. Thomas and St. John would do a disservice to St. Croix. "Folks can't seem to understand the concerns of St. Croix," he said.
Voting for the override in December were Sens. Lorraine Berry, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Emmett Hansen, David Jones, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Norma Pickard-Samuel and White. Voting against were Sens. Adelbert Bryan, Canton and Vargrave Richards. Sen. Roosevelt David was absent for the vote, and Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste was excused.
Jason Budsan, a Democrat who attended Saturday's meeting but was excluded when the Territorial Committee went into executive session to vote on the video lottery terminal legislation, said he was delighted that the committee issued the resolution calling for the bill's repeal.
"It's a terrible scourge," Budsan said Monday afternoon of the VLT issue, adding that he doesn't think allowing the terminals in the Virgin Islands will enhance the territory's revenues.
Senators who supported the measure claimed it will provide another source of revenue for the government's strapped coffers.
The Democratic Territorial Committee also adopted a resolution supporting the governor's veto on Friday of pay raises for top elected officials. "The chief executive has done the right and prudent thing, and we congratulate the governor for his commitment to representative democracy," the resolution states.

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