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Wednesday, July 24, 2024


For the second time in two months the V.I. government’s casino training school has missed an opening date.
The school was to open on Wednesday, Sept. 15, in the Frederiksted Mall. That date was set after the school missed its first opening on Aug. 2.
Now, according to acting Tourism Commissioner Michael Bornn, training for the 130 registered students will begin later this month.
"We’re looking at Sept. 27," Bornn said, clearly exasperated.
The casino training school is part of the V.I. Hospitality Training Institute and will be run by the Department of Tourism. Organization of the training began prior to Bornn’s appointment as commissioner in August.
Tourism officials said the Aug. 2 date was missed because of construction conflicts at the mall. Bornn’s assessment of the latest postponement reflected his frustration with the government. "It’s a lack of credibility," he said.
The opening of the school is crucial because the territory’s first casino is slated to open in December at the renovated Divi Carina Bay Resort on St. Croix’s southeast shore.
The V.I. Casino Control Act mandates that six months prior to the time the Casino Control Commission issues its first casino license, training must be provided to workers. Gaming is not supposed to be allowed until that occurs. The law also states that 65 percent of a casino’s employees must be Virgin Islands residents by the end of the first year of operation. The number increases to 75 percent after the second year and 80 percent after the third.
Because of the six-month time element and the December opening, CCC Chairwoman Eileen Petersen said she has asked the Senate to revise the language in the act.
"I can only recommend that they strike that six-month provision," she said. "I would definitely object to touching the percentages."
In interpreting the section on the amount of required training for casino workers, Petersen noted that in addition to a gaming license, all licensees must also be issued a certificate of operation by the CCC. The certificate is a final check that insures all management controls are in place and that personnel are properly trained before dice are rolled and the slots turn.
By having the six-month provision removed from the casino act and using the certificate of operation to ensure proper training, Petersen said the intent of the law will be kept intact.
"I think the legislation should be liberally construed to make each provision practical," Petersen said. "I don’t wish the six months be a barrier to opening the casino."
"Whether it takes them two weeks, six weeks or eight weeks; if I find they are trained I interpret that to mean a certificate can be issued…"
Petersen also noted the mandate that 65 percent of the casino staff be local residents comes at the end of the first year of operation.
"So they have a whole year to get that 65 percent. It helps facilitate training," she said.

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