79.6 F
Cruz Bay
Monday, July 22, 2024


Officials from the Divi Carina Bay Casino Resort appear unfazed despite the fact that the casino is scheduled to open in December and there are no Virgin Islands residents trained to work in the gaming industry.
V.I. law mandates that that six months before the Casino Control Commission issues its first casino license, training in casino gaming must be provided to workers. Legalized gaming is not supposed to be allowed until that occurs.
The law also states that in the first year of operation, 65 percent of a casino’s work force must be local residents.
Because the opening of the government’s casino training school has been postponed until Sept. 15 and the casino portion of the Divi Carina Bay Resort on St. Croix is set to open sometime in December, casino control officials have said the law must be amended to allow for three months of training.
But as time becomes short, Barbara Shattles, a vice president of Treasure Bay Inc., the company that will operate the casino, said that "at this point, I’m not concerned."
"We’re very confident the gaming commission is going to give us whatever we need to start operating," said Shattles.
There are some 130 people set to receive training in the government-run casino training school, which is to be operated by the Department of Tourism. Shattles noted that the casino will employ approximately 150 people but not all of those will require the extensive gaming training.
For the casino to open, at least 97 of the employees must be bona-fide Virgin Islanders. Shattles said she didn’t know how many gaming jobs needed to be filled but said the company doesn’t expect to bring in off-island dealers or slot attendants for the positions that require time-intensive training.
"At this point we have no plans to bring those numbers in from off-island," she said. "Our first choice is to get St. Croix residents working."
At Senate budget hearings Monday, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds, who is also on the board of governors of the V.I. Hospitality Institute that will oversee casino training, said that if residents aren’t ready to work by December, a special proviso may need to be added to the law.
She suggested that trained, off-island casino workers serve in the short term.
"It will allow us to have the casino opened while our people are trained," said Simmonds.
Meanwhile, the V.I. Casino and Resort Control Act does provide for a waiver of the mandated percentage of resident workers. Such a waiver, however, would only be granted if the casino licensee proves that it made efforts to locate qualified workers but none were available.
"We have no intention at this point to ask the gaming commission to change that," said Shattles. "It is to nobody’s benefit not to open the casino at this time because training hasn’t happened."
At the end of the first year of operation, 65 percent of a casino’s employees must be bona fide residents. The figure rises to 75 percent at the end of the second year and to 90 percent at the end of three years.
The act defines a resident as someone who has been continuously domiciled in the V.I. for five years or native-born Virgin Islanders.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.