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PETERSEN: VIDEO LOTTERY IS ‘CRACK’ OF GAMBLING

April 25, 2001 — The chair of the Casino Control Commission labeled video lotteries the "crack cocaine" of gambling Wednesday in yet another impassioned plea against recent legislation sanctioning such gaming in the territory.
Commission chair Eileen Petersen has vehemently opposed the legislation allowing video lottery terminals in the Virgin Islands, saying the games will take business away from St. Croix’s fledgling casino industry. Despite Petersen’s objections, Sen. Emmett Hansen II was able to win passage of an amendment in the Senate two weeks ago allowing video lottery and similar games. He said that while off-island lotteries, such as those of Puerto Rico and Florida, are played by many people in the territory, the V.I. government is losing out on the potential tax revenues from them.
But at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Casino Control Commission on Wednesday, Petersen again lashed out at Hansen’s efforts.
"Despite the warnings given by experts in the gaming world, despite the position taken by the National Gambling Impact Commission, despite the stance taken by other credible jurisdictions against having video lottery terminals in their communities, the Legislature surreptitiously passed a law allowing these machines known as the 'crack cocaine of gambling' into the territory," 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. She said that with two more hotel-casinos on the horizon that will hire more locals, attract airlines and bring the territory "more respectability," the senators opted for the "pie in the sky" in the belief that tourists would leave a ship’s casino to gamble on the video lottery terminals.
"No economic or social cost benefits were considered by the Legislature," Petersen said. "This is truly the death knell for St. Croix and its future."
She added that there are no regulatory requirements in the bill, nor are there safeguards to keep minors from playing the machines.
In other action at Wednesday's meeting, Commissioner Imelda Dizon said that from March 14, 2000, when the Divi Carina Bay Casino — St. Croix’s first and, so far, only casino — opened, to Dec. 31, 2000, the casino paid the V.I. government $867,524 in gross revenue taxes. For the first quarter of 2001, the casino paid $343,502 in gross revenue taxes, she said.
The tax money collected from casino gaming is supposed to be deposited in the Casino Revolving Fund. The money in the fund is to be used exclusively for:
– Hospitals and health, 15 percent.
– Education, 18 percent.
– Youth programs, 20 percent.
– Agriculture, 10 percent.
– Tourism and casino promotion for St. Croix, 5 percent.
– Union Arbitration Fund, 8 percent.
– Internal Revenue Bureau, 1 percent.
– University of the Virgin Islands, 5 percent.
– Casino Control Commission, 10 percent
– Public safety, 5 percent.
– Gambling addiction programs, approximately 2 percent.
Oliver David, head of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, urged Petersen to seek a change in the casino law that would funnel some of the casino revenue into his agency, which, among other things, investigates casino applicants and all key employees.
"For some reason, the division has been left out," David said. "Nothing has been allocated to the Department of Justice’s Division of Gaming Enforcement."

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