Aug. 31, 2006 — Casino commissioners reluctantly granted Golden Gaming Resorts an additional four months to complete the process of meeting all requirements to secure a casino license and begin breaking ground on the proposed South Shore development.
Commissioners listened intently to the impassioned plea of attorney Treston Moore, representing Golden Gaming, who told of numerous obstacles faced by the developers — the biggest being an ongoing court case by environmentalists wanting to quash the project.
This is extension number seven for Golden Gaming. The development, headed by New Jersey businessman Paul Golden, received a Casino II license reservation in 2001, for an initial time period of two years.
"You have been extentioned out," said commission chairperson Eileen Petersen.
The proposed development would include a six-story, 605-room hotel (434 rooms in the first phase and 171 rooms in the second phase) and a 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.
Petersen asked Moore if he was aware of the seriousness of the opposition against the project: "Are you aware there are people that don't want the project to be built?" Petersen said the longer the project is delayed the more serious the opposition becomes.
Petersen was referring to a court action initiated by the V.I. Conservation Society, which filed a writ of review in Superior Court in 2005. The Society asked the court to review the Board of Land Use Appeal's decision to grant Golden a coastal zone permit. However, in May, Judge Maria Cabret upheld the issuance of the permit. The Society, through its attorney, Andrew Simpson, then moved to appeal Cabret's decision. The appeal is now pending in District Court.
"There are things that are outside of my control," Moore said, citing legal filings, court delays and other legal encumbrances.
Petersen said the developers "would have been better off writing a book about how not to do business in the Virgin Islands" and gone and built the casino on another Caribbean island.
The developers brought completed design drawings to the hearing, which was held Wednesday at the Casino Control building on St. Croix.
In requesting the extension, Moore said, "We have reached a level where both the challenges and the options have been whittled down."
Moore said once the court case is settled, Golden Gaming will complete the funding package and the agreement with the Public Finance Authority. They would then be ready to break ground.
"We hope it will be a done deal by the end of the year," stated Moore.
There were a few tense moments when Petersen called on commissioners Devin Carrington and Lloyd McAlpin to make a motion and the two responded with only silence.
"You are not going to make a motion?" Petersen asked, looking at each commissioner. She said if no motion is made, the project is dead.
After a pause, Carrington offered a motion to extend the deadline to Dec. 31. It was then seconded by McAlpin.
Carrington said his decision to support the extension was based partly on the economic activity generated by the Divi Carina Bay Resorts. He said he has seen residents employed at all levels in the hotel, and some who previously did not have jobs now have the opportunity to purchase homes and cars. Carrington also made reference to "those who come to our island for their own reason and put stumbling blocks in the way of those who seek to improve our economic lot."
Carrington then added that no new hotels have been built on St. Croix in 30 years.
McAlpin said Golden came before the commission the first year he sat on the commission. "I was hoping that I would see this project become a reality before I retire," he said.
Petersen praised the consistency and professionalism of Paul Golden and for his surrounding himself with a "high caliber of professionals." She mentioned obstacles to the project included envious people and those who think St. Croix should "remain looking like it did 50 years ago."
Petersen left Golden with a stern warning: "Don't even attempt to file another extension."
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