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HomeNewsArchivesCASINO COMMISSIONER GETS NOD FROM RULES C’TEE

CASINO COMMISSIONER GETS NOD FROM RULES C’TEE

After shepherding St. Croix to the brink of its first Casino, V.I. Casino Control Commission chairwoman Eileen Petersen received glowing reviews at a reconfirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee Thursday.
Petersen, a retired Territorial Court judge with 23 years of service, is up for her second $80,000-a-year, four-year term on the CCC. With less than a week before the ribbon-cutting for the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino, Petersen was lauded for her work in helping get a casino open on St. Croix.
"You’re the person in the position, frankly, who should run the casino commission," said Sen. Vargrave Richards. "You, to this date, have tried to establish a high standard . . . for casinos in the territory."
Despite being underfunded and understaffed, especially in technical assistance – the downfall of most gambling regulating bodies, according to a national expert – the commission, Petersen said, will be successful in regulating casinos. Already, she said, it has thwarted individuals who had questionable motives in investing in St. Croix, particularly people looking to launder money.
"I cannot and will not be corrupted," she said, adding that despite the shortcomings of the CCC, gaming will work here. "This Casino Control Commission intends to beat these odds . . . so the result is a resounding success for this community."
Sen. Gregory Bennerson warned that "casino sharks" roam the world in search of new casinos with inexperienced staff and lax security.
"There is people out there who gear themselves up for a new casino to open up. I guess we’re going to be there next week," Bennerson said. "If you don’t have the financial support from this government, then casino sharks are going to milk that casino."
According to the Casino Control Act, gaming enforcement agents are supposed to be in the casino during all business hours. But because of funding issues, Petersen said the commission will have to find ways to ensure proper staffing. She told senators that the commission would explain its plan in private.
"We can’t afford agents at all times," Petersen said. "We have to be creative . . . to make sure we have a presence as required by law. This is new to all of us. As mature as I appear, as confident as I appear, I’m apprehensive and as scared as everybody else."
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, meanwhile, questioned whether hiring at the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino was adhering to the Casino Control Act. She said casino-hotels are not supposed to open until "resident workers" have been trained and qualified to assume jobs at all levels. "When the doors open it better be with people who’ve been suffering and waiting for positions," Hansen said.
Taken by itself, Petersen said, Hansen’s point would keep the Divi from opening next week. But Petersen said she was taking into consideration other requirements of the casino act that allow off-islanders to train locals for a short time.
As of Feb. 25, some 222 people had been hired at Divi. About 77 percent are bona fide Virgin Islanders, meaning people either born in the territory or who have lived in the islands for five years. The Casino Control Act mandates that at the end of its first year of operation, a casino-hotel must be staffed 65 percent by locals.
"I have to look at the statute and interpret it not in isolation," Petersen told Hansen, adding that if it was just the section Hansen referred to, casinos on St. Croix would be "dead."
"For example," Petersen said, "we have an (off-island) casino manger . . . you can’t get that from a school. Those are positions you have to have technical assistance and experience working with one of our local people, so within the next two to three years they can move up to the next position."
Petersen’s reappointment was moved out of the Rules Committee with a favorable recommendation on a 6-1 vote, with Sen. Adelbert Bryan absent. Her appointment will go next to the full Senate.
Meanwhile, Petersen said potential investors are watching the opening of the Divi. If it doesn’t go well, she said the island’s future for gaming is doomed.
"There are several persons waiting to see how the commission and the government treat the casino before they turn their license application in," she said.

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After shepherding St. Croix to the brink of its first Casino, V.I. Casino Control Commission chairwoman Eileen Petersen received glowing reviews at a reconfirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee Thursday.
Petersen, a retired Territorial Court judge with 23 years of service, is up for her second $80,000-a-year, four-year term on the CCC. With less than a week before the ribbon-cutting for the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino, Petersen was lauded for her work in helping get a casino open on St. Croix.
"You’re the person in the position, frankly, who should run the casino commission," said Sen. Vargrave Richards. "You, to this date, have tried to establish a high standard . . . for casinos in the territory."
Despite being underfunded and understaffed, especially in technical assistance – the downfall of most gambling regulating bodies, according to a national expert – the commission, Petersen said, will be successful in regulating casinos. Already, she said, it has thwarted individuals who had questionable motives in investing in St. Croix, particularly people looking to launder money.
"I cannot and will not be corrupted," she said, adding that despite the shortcomings of the CCC, gaming will work here. "This Casino Control Commission intends to beat these odds . . . so the result is a resounding success for this community."
Sen. Gregory Bennerson warned that "casino sharks" roam the world in search of new casinos with inexperienced staff and lax security.
"There is people out there who gear themselves up for a new casino to open up. I guess we’re going to be there next week," Bennerson said. "If you don’t have the financial support from this government, then casino sharks are going to milk that casino."
According to the Casino Control Act, gaming enforcement agents are supposed to be in the casino during all business hours. But because of funding issues, Petersen said the commission will have to find ways to ensure proper staffing. She told senators that the commission would explain its plan in private.
"We can’t afford agents at all times," Petersen said. "We have to be creative . . . to make sure we have a presence as required by law. This is new to all of us. As mature as I appear, as confident as I appear, I’m apprehensive and as scared as everybody else."
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, meanwhile, questioned whether hiring at the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino was adhering to the Casino Control Act. She said casino-hotels are not supposed to open until "resident workers" have been trained and qualified to assume jobs at all levels. "When the doors open it better be with people who’ve been suffering and waiting for positions," Hansen said.
Taken by itself, Petersen said, Hansen’s point would keep the Divi from opening next week. But Petersen said she was taking into consideration other requirements of the casino act that allow off-islanders to train locals for a short time.
As of Feb. 25, some 222 people had been hired at Divi. About 77 percent are bona fide Virgin Islanders, meaning people either born in the territory or who have lived in the islands for five years. The Casino Control Act mandates that at the end of its first year of operation, a casino-hotel must be staffed 65 percent by locals.
"I have to look at the statute and interpret it not in isolation," Petersen told Hansen, adding that if it was just the section Hansen referred to, casinos on St. Croix would be "dead."
"For example," Petersen said, "we have an (off-island) casino manger . . . you can’t get that from a school. Those are positions you have to have technical assistance and experience working with one of our local people, so within the next two to three years they can move up to the next position."
Petersen’s reappointment was moved out of the Rules Committee with a favorable recommendation on a 6-1 vote, with Sen. Adelbert Bryan absent. Her appointment will go next to the full Senate.
Meanwhile, Petersen said potential investors are watching the opening of the Divi. If it doesn’t go well, she said the island’s future for gaming is doomed.
"There are several persons waiting to see how the commission and the government treat the casino before they turn their license application in," she said.