April 25, 2005 Members of the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee grilled Lloyd McAlpin Monday about the state of the Casino Control Commission, and in particular whether it was fulfilling its mandates. McAlpin, who was nominated to serve another term on the Casino Control Commission, appeared before the committee to testify on his behalf before the senators voted on his nomination.
The committee approved McAlpin unanimously, but after first questioning him on whether he felt the commission was meeting its purpose.
McAlpin told the committee he did not feel that the commission was adequately meeting the goals set forth in its mandate. Senate President Lorraine L. Berry said the intent of the original legislation establishing the commission was to bring more hotel rooms to St. Croix by allowing casinos to be part of the amenities offered.
McAlpin admitted the commission has only succeeded in seeing through construction of the additional 150 hotel rooms at the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino. The legislation was passed in 1996.
Berry said she did not think the legislation improved the economic situation on the island as the bill's sponsors had hoped.
McAlpin said if the commission could get the "proper marketing arm of the government" to effectively market St. Croix, maybe more investors would consider building hotels with casinos on the island.
Sen. Usie Richards asked him whether that was not one of the duties of the commission. McAlpin said, "The job of the commission is not to market St. Croix, but rather to improve and regulate the casino industry on the island."
McAlpin said in the past five years, the commission has issued approximately 1,500 work permits and 500 employee licenses. Additionally, Golden Gaming and Robin Bay Associates filed two casino license applications with the commission.
"The Casino Control Commission spearheaded the creation of the Virgin Islands Alliance for Responsive Gaming Inc, and has maintained an active role with the alliance to facilitate and implement programs that address responsible gaming," McAlpin said. "As you know, providing gambling education and treatment programs is not a mandated responsibility of the Casino Control Commission; however, we are committed to informed guidance for responsible gaming in the V.I community."
McAlpin said the commission has formed a Responsible Gaming Task Force with other government agencies, Divi , and some non-profit organizations to address the issues of gambling disorders, to curb underage gambling and to promote the availability of treatment for individuals and families afflicted with gambling disorders.
The commission also regularly monitors and certifies the casino revenues collected through the commissions inspectors, and reviews and monitors Divi Carina Bay Casinos system of internal controls to ensure that the system is providing adequate and effective procedures for the smooth operation of the casino, McAlpin said
McAlpin also said the commission has only two inspectors at the moment.
"We cannot even afford to give our inspectors a weekend off," McAlpin said, adding the commission has never received adequate funding.
McAlpin said 10 percent of the revenues generated from gross receipts of the casino industry is given to the commission for its operation. He said there is never a set amount but the amount fluctuates depending on how much revenue is collected by Divi Carina. Divi paid $2.2 million in gross receipt taxes for calendar year 2004.
Three members currently serve on the commission chairwoman Eileen Petersen, attorney Devin Carrington and McAlpin. All are full-time employees of the commission. The commission, by law, is required to have five or six commissioners. Senators were confused Monday about the exact number since the legislation governing the commission says six members in two instances and five in one instance.
McAlpin's nomination must now be forwarded to the full Senate for consideration.
Committee members attending the hearing were: Sens. Berry, Pedro Encarnacion, Terrence Nelson, Shawn-Michael Malone, Richards and Celestino A. White Sr. Sen. Ronald E. Russell was excused. Sen. Liston Davis, who is not a member of the committee, also attended.
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