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PUSH TO KEEP SHIPS' CASINOS OPEN

Virgin Islands law mandates that soon after St. Croix’s first casino opens, gaming on board cruise ships calling on the island must cease.
That would have a drastic effect on Frederiksted’s Harbor Night, according to the street festival’s organizers.
With that in mind, Sen. David Jones Will offer a proposal to amend the law next week when the full Senate meets.
Treasure Bay Corp., a Mississippi-based company, is scheduled to open a casino in December in the renovated Divi Carina Bay Resort on St. Croix’s southeast shore.
The opening will take place in the middle of cruise ship season, when Carnival Cruise Line’s Destiny calls on Frederiksted twice a month. One of the attractions — and draws for the cruise line — is the Harbor Night street festival, which Jones helped organize.
Currently, an agreement between Carnival and the government allows the ship’s casino to remain open while in port. In turn, instead of shoving off at 5 p.m., the Destiny remains in Frederiksted until midnight, allowing passengers to sample the wares of local vendors at Harbor Night.
Hugh Dalton of Dalton Associates, a part owner of Harbor Night, said that if the law allowing on-board casinos lapses, it would "definitely have an effect on Harbor Night." Dalton has said the biweekly event generates $1 million annually.
"For (Carnival) to keep their casino open is a definite plus. I’ve heard they would have to reconsider staying late" if gaming wasn’t allowed in port, Dalton said.
In St. Thomas, where gambling is not allowed while ships are in port, the cruise ships usually leave at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. in order to open their lucrative gaming facilities. Sen. Lorraine Berry’s Government Accountability Act, which is awaiting action by Gov. Charles Turnbull, would, among other provisions, allow cruise ships to open their casinos when calling on St. Thomas.
The rationale behind the idea is that the later ships stay, the more time — and money — passengers will spend on the island.
Jones said he will amend Berry’s proposal to reauthorize on-board gaming for ships calling on St. Croix, even after the island’s first casino opens.
Both Jones and Dalton said cruise ship gambling woould not impact land-based casinos, or Treasure Bay in particular.
"The only casino we’ll have for a while is far, far east" while Frederiksted is in the west, Dalton said. "And from 5 p.m. to midnight, the passengers are in Frederiksted for Harbor Night anyway."
Jones pointed out that the V.I. Casino Control Act allows up to six land-based casinos, so eventually there will be other companies vying for customers.
"I don’t view on-board casinos as competition," Jones said.

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