Dear Source,
Sen. Ronald Russell's commentary on the democracy of debate on video lottery terminals, Non-emotional response to VLT issue is needed, is indubitably valid and well thought out.
I have no problem in saying that I am against VLT's, simply because I don't believe that gambling in this form is a catch-all save-all for the territory's dismal financial crisis, which has been and continues to be perpetuated by sheer bad management practices, bribery and corruption.
Southland initially avowed that these machines would only be placed in "tourist" venues, or whatever phraseology they conveniently used.
Just a few weeks ago I was approached by a salesman who thought I would "like to have one of these machines" in my restaurant (which caters primarily to locals). I was so taken aback that I simply said, "Absolutely not!" and hustled him out. I stupidly didn't ask for his business card or more information. However, it was quite clear from the pictures which he showed me of the machines that these were indeed the Southland machines.
That information was made available to the media but, immediately thereafter, Southland's local attorney categorically denied on behalf of his client that neither my business or any other had been approached, pending the outcome of ongoing litigation. Surprise surprise! Or maybe at 2 o'clock in the afternoon I was just debilitated from the heat and it was all a mirage, a figment of my imagination!
The governor's latest veto of the machines was overridden in a lame-duck late-night session and there has never been any public input or discussion on the placing of these machines in the territory.
Casino gambling is very well regulated; VLT's are historically almost impossible to properly regulate. I have no doubt that their positioning at bars, restaurants and hotels on St. Thomas and St. John will certainly benefit certain senators and other government employees most handsomely but will be to the detriment of the local population.
Leave the gambling to the well-regulated casinos on St. Croix, where it would appear that gambling iss doing well. Hey, I know several St. Thomas residents who go over to St. Croix for a weekend to enjoy it, which must help that economy somewhat, no? It's my understanding that the initial agreement was that St. Croix would be the "casino" island and that St. Thomas and St. John wouldn't "compete" in that arena. The VLT's just slipped through quietly, as do so many deals which end up benefiting the few to the detriment of the mass.
Ask yourself why the casino commissioner [Eileen Petersen] herself has been so outspoken about VLT's. Ask yourself why the Robin Bay developers are about to bow out of their proposed casino development on St. Croix. Remember that these are the Virgin Islands! St. Croix might seem a long ways away to some, but that island is an integral part of the Virgin Islands and contributes to the economy just as much as does St. Thomas.
Check out the visitor forum sites on the Virgin Islands at Fodors or usvi-on-line. Read what people have to say about these islands. Much can be learned and — one point, strictly by its omission — is that people don't come to these islands because of access to gambling. They come from their cold homes to enjoy the sun, our pristine beaches, hospitality, daysails, good food and — most importantly — total relaxation combined of all the above!
A public meeting on VLT's will be held at the Legislature on St. Thomas at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 14. I urge everyone who has any interest in the issue to attend the meeting. We have so many ongoing problems here which have to be addressed, and I don't think we need VLT's as an add-on.
If you would like to be heard, it's my understanding that you can contact Sen. Adlah Donastorg Jr. on St. Thomas to be scheduled. I believe a similar meeting is scheduled for St. Croix on March 13th and that Raymond "Usie" Richards at 773-2424 is the man to reach for that hearing.
Unfortunately I can't personally attend the St. Thomas meeting because my business relies solely upon me to be open. However, I will certainly make my views known to Sen. Donastorg before the meeting takes place.
Thanks for listening and thanks for this wonderful forum in which one can vent one's spleen!
Anna Clarke
St. Thomas

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