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HomeNewsArchives‘PHENOMENAL’ FIRST MONTH FOR CASINO

‘PHENOMENAL’ FIRST MONTH FOR CASINO

Although the numbers are still being crunched and kinks ironed out, the first month for the casino at the Divi Carina Bay Resort is shaping up to be a very successful one.
"Business has been phenomenal," said casino manager Michael Ratner, adding that he had given himself 60 days to "iron out" problems that come with a new casino and employees.
Exactly how "phenomenal" translates into revenue, however, has yet to be officially determined, said Eileen Petersen, chairwoman of the Casino Control Commission. A glitch with a computer program has delayed a final financial tally until the end of the week, she said.
"We haven’t got a hold on that completely," Petersen said. "It’s very difficult at this time for me to make a fair assessment."
As with the casino, Petersen said the Casino Commission is still feeling its way through the process of regulating its first charge. The completion of an on-site banquet and meeting facility and the introduction of a marketing plan are just two of the mandates the casino must meet as part of gaming regulations.
"The first month has been really one of adjustment," Petersen said. "It’s early still, we’re still ironing out the kinks."
Despite the behind-the-scenes efforts at smooth sailing, the casino has been packed every weekend since it opened a month ago, Ratner said. The people who are coming are predominantly locals, which isn’t a surprise to casino management or Petersen. Even before gaming began, the operators of the casino were banking on residents to support the new venture.
But the need for local support has raised the question of whether the majority of islanders has the wherewithal to gamble every weekend.
"About 90 percent of our trade right now is local people," Ratner said. "I think we’re seeing an indication of what our weekends will be like. The first three months we’ve committed to local business."
Petersen noted the "active support" residents are giving the new casino, but then cautioned that nationally, 2 percent of the population develops problems with gambling. Still, she said, the novelty of casino gaming on the island probably accounts for the large crowds.
"I believe most of our people are responsible gamblers. We can do what we can to notify the public that it’s just a form of entertainment," she said. "People should just walk with enough money they can afford to spend.
"I think it will level off in another several months. Then we’ll see."
At that point, Ratner said the casino’s marketing plan will be in place. At the official opening of the casino a month ago, Brad Whitmore, president of Grapetree Shores, the company that owns Divi Casino Bay Resort and Casino, said the plan is to market the resort to meeting planners across the country.
The spinoff business from the 500-seat meeting facility on the ground level of the casino is expected to produce more gamblers and new revenue for the territory, unlike the recycled dollars spent by local players.
Still, Petersen said that even though the money flowing through the casino may not be fresh revenue, the wages produced through jobs at the casino and resort are new. Those new jobs and additional hotel rooms were the impetus behind legalizing casino gaming on St. Croix, she said.
"When you have over 300 new jobs, that must be putting more money into the economy," Petersen said.
Grapetree Shores has leased the gambling operation to Treasure Bay Corp., which operates a large casino in Biloxi, Miss. The two-story casino on St. Croix has 300 slot machines, 10 blackjack tables, two roulette tables and one craps table, a buffet, snack bar and gift shop.

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Although the numbers are still being crunched and kinks ironed out, the first month for the casino at the Divi Carina Bay Resort is shaping up to be a very successful one.
"Business has been phenomenal," said casino manager Michael Ratner, adding that he had given himself 60 days to "iron out" problems that come with a new casino and employees.
Exactly how "phenomenal" translates into revenue, however, has yet to be officially determined, said Eileen Petersen, chairwoman of the Casino Control Commission. A glitch with a computer program has delayed a final financial tally until the end of the week, she said.
"We haven’t got a hold on that completely," Petersen said. "It’s very difficult at this time for me to make a fair assessment."
As with the casino, Petersen said the Casino Commission is still feeling its way through the process of regulating its first charge. The completion of an on-site banquet and meeting facility and the introduction of a marketing plan are just two of the mandates the casino must meet as part of gaming regulations.
"The first month has been really one of adjustment," Petersen said. "It’s early still, we’re still ironing out the kinks."
Despite the behind-the-scenes efforts at smooth sailing, the casino has been packed every weekend since it opened a month ago, Ratner said. The people who are coming are predominantly locals, which isn’t a surprise to casino management or Petersen. Even before gaming began, the operators of the casino were banking on residents to support the new venture.
But the need for local support has raised the question of whether the majority of islanders has the wherewithal to gamble every weekend.
"About 90 percent of our trade right now is local people," Ratner said. "I think we’re seeing an indication of what our weekends will be like. The first three months we’ve committed to local business."
Petersen noted the "active support" residents are giving the new casino, but then cautioned that nationally, 2 percent of the population develops problems with gambling. Still, she said, the novelty of casino gaming on the island probably accounts for the large crowds.
"I believe most of our people are responsible gamblers. We can do what we can to notify the public that it’s just a form of entertainment," she said. "People should just walk with enough money they can afford to spend.
"I think it will level off in another several months. Then we’ll see."
At that point, Ratner said the casino’s marketing plan will be in place. At the official opening of the casino a month ago, Brad Whitmore, president of Grapetree Shores, the company that owns Divi Casino Bay Resort and Casino, said the plan is to market the resort to meeting planners across the country.
The spinoff business from the 500-seat meeting facility on the ground level of the casino is expected to produce more gamblers and new revenue for the territory, unlike the recycled dollars spent by local players.
Still, Petersen said that even though the money flowing through the casino may not be fresh revenue, the wages produced through jobs at the casino and resort are new. Those new jobs and additional hotel rooms were the impetus behind legalizing casino gaming on St. Croix, she said.
"When you have over 300 new jobs, that must be putting more money into the economy," Petersen said.
Grapetree Shores has leased the gambling operation to Treasure Bay Corp., which operates a large casino in Biloxi, Miss. The two-story casino on St. Croix has 300 slot machines, 10 blackjack tables, two roulette tables and one craps table, a buffet, snack bar and gift shop.