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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesGOOD TIMES ROLL AT UNVEILING OF CASINO

GOOD TIMES ROLL AT UNVEILING OF CASINO

Blinking lights, whirring roulette wheels, ringing bells and the din of excited droves of people: The sights and sounds of money having fun were unmistakable Tuesday evening at the unveiling of St. Croix’s first casino.
At the by-invitation preview following the afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony, a Who's Who of public officials and business executives were taking their chances — and talking about the odds of gaming turning the island's economy around.
Gambling fever had -– for at least a few hours — infected some of the Virgin Islands’ most public figures. At one table surrounded shoulder to shoulder with excited, tuxedo-clad and jewel-bedecked gamblers, Sens. Adelbert "Bert" Bryan and Almando "Rocky" Liburd rolled craps.
With flashing lights of a slot machine playing off his glasses, District Court Judge Raymond Finch -– ever the picture of composure and great import –- contemplated the fate of the one-armed bandit he was presiding over.
And although it was hard to tell who was schooling whom, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds was holding session with a slot machine away from the throngs of people packed into the shiny new Divi Carina Bay Casino.
Soaking up all the action in the territory’s newest industry, in which he doesn’t yet own a piece, was accountant-turned-mogul Jeffrey Prosser. Was he crunching numbers and contemplating dealing himself into the gaming game? "I pretty much stay in banking and communications," Prosser said. "We looked at it at the time of the Carambola transaction. But it’s a special business, and you have to certainly understand it, which I don’t."
Whether he was hedging his bets remains to be seen. But one thing almost everyone agreed upon at the opening of the territory's first casino was that gaming holds great potential for St. Croix.
"It’s like a dream come true," Christiansted businessman Mike Harris, a charter member of Crucians for Casino Entertainment, said. "It will open up new doors for St. Croix."
Brad Whitmore, president of Grapetree Shores, the company that undertook the resurrection of the derelict Divi resort, said the opening of the resort and casino will help build the momentum needed to put St. Croix back on the tourism map.
Divi Carina Bay has already contacted thousands of meeting planners, tour operators and travel agents throughout the United States and Canada, Whitmore said, and that will translate into more tourists, more hotels and more airlines. "St. Croix is definitely getting exposure," he said. "This is new tourism, and it builds economic momentum for everyone."
Still, Whitmore cautioned against people thinking that Divi will be St. Croix’s savior. So did others.
The Casino Control Act allows six hotel-casinos to be built on the island. With that in mind, Prosser said more must be done to attract investors. "This is a great thing for St. Croix," he said of the new casino. "The problem you have is we don’t put across a good image toward business. That’s why this is such an important venture."
Whitmore put it this way: "The casino is not enough for an economic turnaround, but it’s a good start."
The casino is scheduled to open to the public on Friday.

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Blinking lights, whirring roulette wheels, ringing bells and the din of excited droves of people: The sights and sounds of money having fun were unmistakable Tuesday evening at the unveiling of St. Croix’s first casino.
At the by-invitation preview following the afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony, a Who's Who of public officials and business executives were taking their chances -- and talking about the odds of gaming turning the island's economy around.
Gambling fever had -– for at least a few hours -- infected some of the Virgin Islands’ most public figures. At one table surrounded shoulder to shoulder with excited, tuxedo-clad and jewel-bedecked gamblers, Sens. Adelbert "Bert" Bryan and Almando "Rocky" Liburd rolled craps.
With flashing lights of a slot machine playing off his glasses, District Court Judge Raymond Finch -– ever the picture of composure and great import –- contemplated the fate of the one-armed bandit he was presiding over.
And although it was hard to tell who was schooling whom, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds was holding session with a slot machine away from the throngs of people packed into the shiny new Divi Carina Bay Casino.
Soaking up all the action in the territory’s newest industry, in which he doesn’t yet own a piece, was accountant-turned-mogul Jeffrey Prosser. Was he crunching numbers and contemplating dealing himself into the gaming game? "I pretty much stay in banking and communications," Prosser said. "We looked at it at the time of the Carambola transaction. But it’s a special business, and you have to certainly understand it, which I don’t."
Whether he was hedging his bets remains to be seen. But one thing almost everyone agreed upon at the opening of the territory's first casino was that gaming holds great potential for St. Croix.
"It’s like a dream come true," Christiansted businessman Mike Harris, a charter member of Crucians for Casino Entertainment, said. "It will open up new doors for St. Croix."
Brad Whitmore, president of Grapetree Shores, the company that undertook the resurrection of the derelict Divi resort, said the opening of the resort and casino will help build the momentum needed to put St. Croix back on the tourism map.
Divi Carina Bay has already contacted thousands of meeting planners, tour operators and travel agents throughout the United States and Canada, Whitmore said, and that will translate into more tourists, more hotels and more airlines. "St. Croix is definitely getting exposure," he said. "This is new tourism, and it builds economic momentum for everyone."
Still, Whitmore cautioned against people thinking that Divi will be St. Croix’s savior. So did others.
The Casino Control Act allows six hotel-casinos to be built on the island. With that in mind, Prosser said more must be done to attract investors. "This is a great thing for St. Croix," he said of the new casino. "The problem you have is we don’t put across a good image toward business. That’s why this is such an important venture."
Whitmore put it this way: "The casino is not enough for an economic turnaround, but it’s a good start."
The casino is scheduled to open to the public on Friday.