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CASINO GAMING SCHOOL BACK ON TRACK

As the December opening date for St. Croix’s first casino draws nearer, the V.I. Casino Control Commission has renewed the license for the government’s gaming school.
In order for the commission to relicense the school, it had to hold a special meeting on Friday because it was the final day of Commissioner Dennis Brow’s term. That leaves Chairwoman Eileen Petersen and commissioner Imelda Dizon essentially in limbo, unable to make quorum.
After the meeting, Petersen said she hadn’t spoken recently to Gov. Charles Turnbull about adding a third member, although she said he knows that Brow’s term has expired. A call to the governor’s spokesman, James O’Bryan, was not returned Friday afternoon.
"There has been some indication that steps are being taken," Petersen said. "But I haven’t been officially advised."
Meanwhile, the casino gaming school, which will be operated by the V.I. Department of Tourism, is scheduled to open August 2. (See related story in Local News.) Although the school has been licensed for more than two years, it was never funded because for most of that time there were no casinos slated to open. The school’s license expired at the beginning of July, but with Mississippi-based Treasure Bay Casino set to open this winter, local residents must be trained to work in the industry.
The V.I. Casino and Resort Control Act states that six months prior to the time the CCC issues its first casino license, training must be provided to resident workers. Legalized gaming is not supposed to be allowed until that occurs. The CCC granted Treasure Bay’s license last December.
The act mandates that 80 percent of all casino workers must be residents of the Virgin Islands.
Vic Taucer, a gaming professor for the Resorts/Gaming department at the Community College of Southern Nevada, will conduct the training. He said he still hasn’t finalized a contract and deferred questions about the start up of the school to the Department of Tourism’s Tracy Ellis. Ellis, however, was out sick on Friday.
Taucer and his staff must be licensed by the CCC before they do any training. But that will have to wait until another commissioner is added.
As for training perspective casino workers,Taucer said applicants with experience in the service industry are usually best suited for gaming jobs.
"I think once we start training there will be a lot of enthusiasm," he said.
According to Brow, as of July 7, 82 residents had completed a employment registration form. The casino act mandates that different positions on the casino floor require differing amounts of training. For example, for a student to deal a first game of blackjack, they need 160 hours of training. For baccarat and roulette it is 200 hours and for craps it is 240.
Meanwhile, after Friday’s meeting, Petersen blasted critics, both in the Legislature and community, for wanting to tamper with the make-up of the CCC. She said that amending the casino act at this point weakens the territory’s chances of attracting investors looking for a stable system.
Calls to reduce the number of commissioners and changing their $80,000-a-year positions from full time to part time would only raise warning flags to other gaming commissions, which must approve casinos they regulate that want to open on St. Croix.
Petersen said the V.I.’s commission is patterned after New Jersey’s, where commissioners are full time. She suggested that if the commission is made part time, then the money saved should be used to hire additional gaming investigators.
"If you tamper with this commission at this point, what you’re saying is that Mississippi was wrong…"
"If you don’t like the commissioners, change them . . . don’t destroy the entire system," she continued. "Constant tampering is dangerous, detrimental and deadly."
An individual familiar with casino matters in the territory said the calls for revamping the body and the lack of installing a new commissioner promptly aren’t because of the government’s financial crunch. Rather, the person, who wished to remain anonymous, said it is politically motivated.
In other CCC action Friday, commissioners approved a temporary permit for Bally’s to supply casino equipment to Treasure Bay Casino. It also approved a half dozen license exemptions to companies that plan to do business with the casino.

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