On July 9, 2007, amid a state budget crisis, the five casino establishments in Pennsylvania's one-year-old casino industry were on the verge of being shut down. All state employees would have to go home. State regulatory employees are essential to the regulation of the casinos and their absence as a result of the budget crisis would, by law, require the casinos to be shut down. A last minute injunction granted by the Commonwealth Court exempted the state casino inspectors and thus allowed the casinos to stay open during the one-day government wide shutdown. One Pennsylvania state lawmaker said the closure would have had "devastating effects" on employment the casinos provide. Approximately 3,500 persons are currently employed in casinos in Pennsylvania.
Similarly, on July 5, 2006, a government wide shutdown, precipitated by a budgetary impasse, resulted in a mass closure of Atlantic City, New Jersey's 12 casinos. Again, with no state budget and the inability to pay state employees, casino inspectors who keep tabs on the money and whose presence is required in casinos could not be on the job. Thus casinos could not operate. Up to 15,000 casino employees were temporarily out of work due to the closings.
Certain individuals in the Virgin Islands, unknowledgeable of the casino industry and the integral and necessary role that a regulatory body plays, have suggested that the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission be disbanded. Some cite the existence of only one casino in the ten years since the law has been enacted as the reason for their opinion. Others take issue with the decisions the Commission has made regarding a particular casino applicant. Their position is misguided for two reasons.
First, the Commission is a regulatory body. We exist to ensure that casinos licensed in St. Croix comply in all respects with the Virgin Islands Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 and its regulations. The Commission does not seek out or promote investors for casino/hotel projects. To do so would be a conflict of interest. That task would be best suited to the Department of Tourism or the Economic Development Authority.
Second, in passing the Act, it was the intent of the Virgin Islands Legislature to create an environment whereby the proper regulation of casino hotels on St. Croix would attract reputable operators and result in the creation of employment opportunities for individuals in the ailing St. Croix economy. Respectable gaming operators only operate in reputable and well-regulated jurisdictions.
To suggest the abolishment of the Commission displays a high degree of ignorance of the workings of the industry. As shown in the Pennsylvania and Atlantic City examples, no regulation in St. Croix would mean no casino hotel(s). Developers are unwilling to construct new hotels on St. Croix without a casino as an amenity.
Moreover, with the St. Croix unemployment and poverty rate being so unacceptably high, such talk reveals that the proponents have no regard for the approximately 400 individuals currently employed at the casino hotel or their families that depend on them. Those employees would face an uncertain future with the closure of the casino. We certainly hope that such a result is not what the advocates of disbanding the Commission had in mind.
Casino Control Commission
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