Are they serious? The St. John Source reports that legislation relating to casinos in the Virgin Islands may allow two casinos to be built on St. John. St. Thomas would be allowed seven.
The Territory's casino regulating bill was originally approved in 1995, after voters has indicated they wanted gambling only on St. Croix. Since then, while six casinos were authorized, only one has been built: the Divi Carina Bay Resort. "What we hoped for (in terms of economic development and casino projects) is nowhere there now," said Violet Golden, a member of the casino Control Commission. (Read the full Daily News story here.)
The idea that casinos could be built on St. John is shocking to many people. The island's man in the VI Senate, Craig Barshinger, reportedly did not attend the meeting of the Senate committee meeting where the prospect of St. John casinos was raised. The Inquiring Iguana has no doubt he'll get into this quickly and loudly.
A consultant for the Virgin Islands Lottery was skeptical of data presented suggesting casino gambling would be good for St. Thomas and St. John. of course, casinos would also be competition for the Lottery and its workforce of people who sit on chairs outside stores and sell the numbers. Furthermore, the comments of a University of the Virgin Islands economics professor countered suggestions casinos would generate more tourism. Simon Jones-Hendrickson said 80 to 90 percent of the Divi business comes from locals.
Here's the real problem. The VI economy has just taken a body blow with the decision by the operators of the oil refinery on St. Croix to close up shop. Hovensa, the refinery, is the Territory's largest employer, some 2,000 people. It supplies WAPA's needs for generating electricity and water distribution. The Governor estimates that Hovensa contributes $100 million a year to the VI government, through property taxes, employees' taxes, etc. The loss of that money to the government and the islands' economy is catastrophic.
And now a mirage of income from casinos is on the horizon.
- The Virgin islands Daily News also reported on the Senate's casino hearing. Read the story here.