April 28, 2006 – Casino developer Golden Gaming was granted a four-month extension by the Casino Commission on its reservation for a casino license Thursday. This is the sixth extension awarded to Golden Gaming since 2001, when the commission reserved one of the two allowed Casino II licenses to the development for two years.
Paul Golden and his attorney, Treston Moore, came before the committee and said the extension was necessary because of the difficulties they have been experiencing with government agencies in obtaining zoning changes and coastal zone permits. Additionally, various court battles concerning the Coastal Zone Management major permit have delayed the project.
Moore said despite the problems, the project is "moving forward." In February, Hudson Realty Capital of New York announced it would fund a 12-month, $9 million first mortgage loan for the development (See "Golden Gaming Adds Another Investor").
Golden and Moore showed off construction drawings of the proposed resort Thursday. "We are within sight of the ultimate goal," Moore told the commission members. "We need your help to pull the project off the table and put it in the ground."
Moore said the development "depends a great deal" on the government locating a convention center close to the proposed hotel. He said a convention center with the proper flag would draw guests to the hotel. Moore said with all the obstacles the development has overcome they have "blazed a trail" for other potential developers.
The proposed development would include a six-story, 605-room hotel (434 rooms first phase and 171 rooms second phase) and casino resort on approximately 297 acres in the Great Pond area. The project will include a golf course, a restaurant, an access road and parking.
Neither Casino Commission Chairwoman Eileen Petersen nor the two other commission members had questions for Golden and Moore regarding the extension. "We have been receiving regular updates," Petersen said. She said that in addition to reviewing correspondence from Golden, the commission "does its own due diligence and investigation."
Several residents voiced approval of the project in their testimony at the meeting, which began at 9:30 a.m. at the Casino Commission office in Estate Orange Grove, Christiansted. The residents cited the depressed economy, lack of job opportunities and the need for additional hotel rooms to stimulate tourism as reasons the extension should be granted.
However, Miles Plaskett, attorney for the Annaly Bay proposed development, said repeated extensions of Golden's reservation for a casino license was holding up their progress.
The current law allows only two Casino II licenses for a hotel development of 300 to 1,400 rooms and a casino of at least 10,000 square feet. A Casino I license requires 1,500 hotel rooms.
Plaskett said Annaly Bay is prepared to proceed with its application and he hopes the law could be amended soon to provide for additional Casino II licenses "but that may not happen anytime soon." Plaskett asked the commission to revoke Golden's license reservation because they have not adhered to the time allowed.
The Annaly Bay development, which was announced in Dec. 2005, would include three hotels, residential villages, estate homes and villa residences spread over 1,327 acres on St. Croix's north shore (See "Developers Propose Major Resort for St. Croix").
Commission member Devin Carrington asked Plaskett if granting the extension to Golden would be fatal to the Annaly Bay project.
Plaskett said it would not. He said although it was "unfair to the community to drag this out," he would appeal to the Legislature for additional casino licenses.
Petersen said the Casino I license should be amended by the senate to allow another Casino II license because it was "unrealistic" that the 1,500-room requirement could be met by a developer. The three-member commission, including member Lloyd McAlpin, deliberated less than five minutes before announcing the unanimous decision to award Golden Gaming the extension.
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