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PETERSEN: VIDEO LOTTO WILL HURT CASINOS

April 12, 2001 – Legislation allowing video lottery and other devices to operate in the territory is aimed at generating revenue for the V.I. government. But the head of the Casino Control Commission says she is against the idea because of the potential impact such games would have on St. Croix’s fledgling casino industry.
During Tuesday's Senate session, Sen. Emmett Hansen II succeeded in getting an amendment passed to allow video lottery and similar games. He said that while off-island lotteries, such as those of Puerto Rico and Florida, are widely played locally, the V.I. government is losing out on the potential tax revenues from them.
"This tells me we need to diversify the offering of the V.I. Lottery," Hansen said, adding that his effort is to help fill the government's empty coffers. "We can remain broke, or we can find new avenues of revenue," he said.
But Casino Control Commission Chair Eileen Petersen said Tuesday that the idea of jeopardizing St. Croix's emerging casino industry for the sake of an unknown amount of tax revenue is not wise. She said video lottery will hurt current and future casinos and that some jurisdictions with legalized gambling have abolished video gaming.
"You can’t find any reputable gaming jurisdiction in the United States with video lottery," Petersen said.
Unlike casinos, which by law must be accompanied by a specific number of hotel rooms, Petersen said, video gaming doesn’t provide much employment or boost tourism. All video gaming will do, she said, is take business away from casinos. "Both can’t effectively co-exist in this small community," she said.
Hansen, meanwhile, said legalized horse race wagering has existed in the Virgin Islands for a long time, with off-track, satellite betting on mainland races a recent addition.
"I don’t see any new revenues coming down the pike," he said. Making that possible, he said, is "all this amendment does."

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