Feb 3, 2005 – The V.I. Casino Control Commission Thursday analyzed the positive and negative impacts of casinos some residents get jobs, others get addicted to gambling and then extended Golden Gaming's reservation of a casino license.
Casino Control Commission member Devin Carrington said he used Divi Carina Bay Casino's affect on St. Croix as his barometer and "All in all, it is a good thing. It provides jobs, gives people the opportunity to learn new skills. It can only be helpful to have another casino on the island."
Golden Gaming has had numerous extensions of its reservation of a license, the latest extension was to expire Friday.(See "Golden Gaming Casino Reservation Extended 6 Months").
Commission member Lloyd McAlpin said he had less reservations about extending the reservation this time. At the time of the last extension, Golden was embroiled in a legal battle with the Coastal Zone Management Commission.
Those problems apparently disappeared last month when Golden was granted a Major Coastal Zone Permit by the Board of Land Use Appeals. (See "Golden Resorts Gets Permission to Build at Great Pond").
McAlpin said he realized the delays were not the fault of developer Paul Golden
Carrington said the bottom line was that Golden now had to find financial backers and the possession of the permit should help.
Eileen Petersen, commission chair, said she would have preferred just a six-month extension but agreed to go along with McAlpin's proposal that the reservation be extended to Oct. 5, 2005.
Golden proposes to construct a six-story, 605-room hotel (434 rooms first phase and 171 rooms second phase) and casino resort on approximately 297 acres in the Great Pond area. The project will include a golf course, a restaurant, and an access road.
To combat the negative aspects of gambling, members of the Casino Commission established the Alliance for Responsible Gaming. Carrington gave an update on the alliance's activities.
He said a seminar at Divi was recently attended by 35 people who are concerned about social problems associated with gambling. He said it was like an introductory course for prospective gambling-addict counselors.
Secondly, he said two alliance members had recently traveled to Las Vegas to attend a national conference on responsible gaming.
Thirdly, he said the alliance was involved in a local media campaign promoting responsible gambling with public service spots on the radio and advertisements in the newspaper.
McAlpin had started off the meeting with the report about the positive impact of a casino on St. Croix. He said the Divi's casino and resort employed a total of 368 workers and 90 percent of them are V.I. residents.
The 90 percent goal is one that Divi has been trying to reach for some time. Petersen said, "I am very pleased that this goal has been reached.
Barbara Shattles, general manager at Divi, one of only two people in the audience who were not media, started clapping and gave a shout.
But back to the negative, commission members discussed a subject that comes up at most commission meetings, "Why are the VLT gambling machines on St. Thomas not regulated?"
Petersen said she is not against the video lottery terminals, but she is against them not being regulated.
Her stated concerns were:
– There is no limit to the number of them that can be placed on St. Thomas
-There is no mechanism that prevents underage gambling
-There is no accounting of how much money they bring in
-There is no guarantee that the customer is getting what he or she believes they are getting when they play the machines
R. Oliver David, the commission's gaming enforcement officer, said the VLT were effectively slot machines and should be regulated as such.
McAlpin suggested that a meeting between the V.I. Lottery Commission and the Casino Control Commission be set so these concerns could be addressed.
Petersen asked, "Would we not just be having a meeting to say we had a meeting?" She said she thought "the horse was already out of the barn" because a contract had already been signed between the supplier of the machines and the V.I. government.(See "New Pact Gives VLT Contractor the Green Light").
Petersen also asked if the V.I. government was now $30 million richer than when it signed the contract. This was in reference to the gaming company president who said the territory would benefit by $15 million a year if it allowed the VLT. (See "VLT Debate Continues after Legislation").
The only answer she received were chuckles from her fellow commission members.
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