It's going to be a race for the Casino Gaming Commission to approve equipment at Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino in time for the casino's announced March 15 opening.
As of Monday, the Finance Department had not released the funds necessary to pay for tests of more than 300 gaming machines, most of them slot machines.
Eileen Petersen, commission chairman, said she needs about $40,000 to pay a professional inspector to come in with specialized equipment and test each machine. She would not say who the inspector is, but said he has done similar work for other jurisdictions.
"I don't think it'll take longer than two weeks" to complete the inspections, she said, adding that she hoped Finance would release the money by the end of the week.
She sidestepped questions about how long she had been waiting for it, but apparently the request is the latest victim of the government's cash-flow crunch.
"This money came from the casino people" in the form of license fees, Petersen said. They had to pay $150,000 for a casino license and another $250 for each slot machine. The money goes into a fund to help pay commission expenses, particularly investigations and inspections. "So then the government has to give it back to us."
Petersen said the territory's credibility was at stake. "No good casino opens without their machines being inspected."
Ideally, the Virgin Islands should be able to do its own equipment-testing, Petersen said, but it would cost about $3.5 million to create a test lab comparable to ones in Las Vegas and other major gaming destinations.
It might be something to build once St. Croix has eight or nine casinos, she said, but now it is out of the territory's range.
The Divi resort was heavily damaged in Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and had been closed until last year. Extensively remodeled, it reopened Nov. 3, 1999, with 126 rooms and another 20 suites in hillside villas. The newly constructed casino facility had been slated to debut Dec. 15, but sustained damage in November from Hurricane Lenny.
The property is owned by Grapetree Shores Inc., which leases the gaming operation to Treasure Bay V.I. Corp., the local affiliate of Treasure Bay Corp., which has operations in Mississippi.

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