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Tuesday, June 18, 2024


Feb. 13, 2002 – The cavernous office of the Virgin Islands' new lottery agency is almost empty at present, but it's not quiet. It is abuzz with new energy.
White plastic tables dot the blue-carpeted lobby which surrounds the shoulder-high white counter behind which the Caribbean Lottery Services terminals sit. Sitting at one of the tables is a potential lottery dealer learning the ropes from a CLS agent.
Behind the counter, new agents are learning how to operate the terminals, as Richard Counts, the new marketing manager as of Monday, consults with Elise Romer, Caribbean sales manager for Leeward Islands Lottery Holding Co., CLS's parent company. Romer, from Sint Maarten, regularly visits all of the islands where Leeward Islands has operations.
Counts said about 60 of the CLS lottery terminals have been installed territorywide, and most of them should be on line and operating Thursday or Friday.
The office is in Port of $ale Mall at Havensight on St. Thomas, "right in the line of cruise ship traffic," Counts notes. The operation, open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., runs sort of like an off-track betting parlor in New York. You select a card or cards from one of five options, fill it out with which drawing(s) and how much money you want to bet, and give it to the counter agent with your money. She pops the paper into the computer terminal, and it instantly pops out a receipt of your transaction, which is your lottery ticket.
Then you can either wait to see how you do, or come back. Some tickets have three drawings a day, with $25,000 the top prize an individual can win on one daily drawing in the V.I. only. The computerized games are called Pairs, Pick 3, Pick 4, Daily Numbers, Caribbean Lotto, Caribbean Keno and Hot 4 Cash Lotto. CLS also sells the scratch tickets, which is what the dealers would be selling. They also are available at commercial outlets.
Keno must be played on a "television" terminal which CLS installs only in places where "social events" take place, according to Romer. Keno has a winning number every five minutes from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The big draw is the Caribbean Lotto jackpot, which runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The current prize is $300,000, but that is for the entire Caribbean, not just in the territory, as some of the others prizes are. Leeward Islands Lottery operates lotteries in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis and Sint Maarten, in addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Asked how many people CLS employs, Counts deferred to Romer. He is still learning, himself. "We have 20 agents here and another 22 on St. Croix," she said, "and we will have three on St. John when the office is set up." The employees are mainly counter and outside sales agents. The St. Croix office is in Sunny Isle Shopping Center.
After Sen. Adelbert Bryan and other members of his Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Committee ascertained at a hearing Monday night that the contract between the V.I. government and CLS was legal, the number of local employees was high on their list of questions about the new company.
CLS representative James M. Christian said at the meeting that the company had no plans to pursue video lotteries. Although its contract doesn't exclude that option, it does require that any new games be approved by the Lottery Commission.
TV terminal lottery is not video lottery
Video lottery terminal games differ from the Keno "television" terminal and all of the other CLS games in one major aspect. While the customer has to pay a counter agent to play the CLS lotteries, VLT's basically work like a slot machine: Anyone can walk up, insert his or her money and play the machine. This is one of the objections to bringing VLT operations into the territory that opponents cite, arguing that the machines, set up in public places, wouldn't be regulated and would be available to minors.
The Senate recently passed its third bill approving the introduction of VLT's, which under a contract with the Lottery Commission dating from several years ago would be operated exclusively by a mainland company. The bill now sits on the desk of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who has said he will veto it for a third time. Sen. Celestino A. White, who sponsored the measure, said Monday night that the Senate this time would override the governor's veto.
Objections to agents' approaches
Some of the new CLS agents, businesses under contract to operate the machines, aren't too happy with the machines thus far.
One business owner who asked not to be identified said he has had little training and would be hard put to start operating the lotteries right off the bat. He said he had been to one training session, which he termed "inadequate."
The machines, which weigh about 55 pounds, are big and cumbersome. If the business, say a bar or restaurant, should be very busy, it would be difficult for a bartender to keep up with the lottery business while managing the bar. "That's why we are placing them in busy places," Counts said. "They would have more employees to run the machines."
At least three business owners, who didn't wish to be named, have complained about the CLS sales agents' methods. One said an agent had left a contract at his business then returned demanding that the owner give back the document, which he had misplaced. "If I were selling these machines, I'd leave contracts with everyone to look at," the businessman said. "You can't put conditions on a contract."
Two other business owners said they were constantly pestered during the Christmas season after having told the agent to return after Christmas. "He just wouldn't wait," one owner said, "so I told him to forget it, period."
Counts declined to name all the business which have the machines, but he did identify one supermarket on St. Thomas, Value Foods. CLS looks forward to placing the terminals in gas stations and some retail shops, as well as the bars and restaurants, he said.

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