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HomeNewsArchivesCOMMITTEE WRANGLES OVER INTERNET GAMING BILL

COMMITTEE WRANGLES OVER INTERNET GAMING BILL

May 11, 2001 – The gambling issue strained legislative allegiances Friday, with Sen. Adlebert Bryan's committee members rejecting his bill to regulate bingo and Bryan abruptly adjouring the meeting rather than allow a vote on an Internet gaming bill which he opposes.
The action took place in a meeting of the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, which Bryan chairs.
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole offered an extensive amendment to the Internet gambling measure which he said was designed to address the concerns raised in earlier hearings by the Justice Department and the Casino Control Commission. Cole offered the amendment on behalf of Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd who is not a member of the committee but who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Vargrave Richards.
Bryan had offered his own lengthy amendement just before Cole's and it was defeated.
The original bill gave an exclusive franchise to United States Virgin Islands Technologies Initiative, LLP, a group formed specifically for Internet gaming.
Among other things, Bryan's amendment would have made the government the owner of the Internet gaming site and opened to competitive bidding contracts for a data center.
Only Sen. Emmett Hansen II voted with Bryan. Sens. Roosevelt David, Cole and Richards voted against. Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste was absent from the meeting, and Sen. Celestino White was absent for the vote.
Liburd's amendment, offered by Cole, attempted to hit a middle ground on the question of competition, by making way for a second franchisee, St. Croix Gaming, LLP. Paul Arnold, a principal of that company, had testified at a previous hearing that his company is prepared to get into the business.
The amendment also spelled out extensive investigations to be conducted by the Casino Control Commission and that the applicants for licenses or franchises would pay for those investigations. If the companies were found to be deficient in any way, then the government would put the franchise out on bid. Cole said Technologies Initiative "did all the work on it" so it is only fair that they get to put the concept into business.
Hansen objected to the amendment, citing testimony by Eileen Petersen, chairwoman of the Casino Control Commission, that if Internet gambling is run by a private company it should not have a name reflective of the Virgin Islands. He also questioned whether the Legislature can grant franchise agreements. But legislative legal counsel Yvonne Tharpes said it has that authority.
Bryan complained that the amendment was so long "it appears to rewrite the whole bill." He asked if the legal counsel's office had reviewed it, which it had not, said Tharpes. However, Cole noted that legal counsel does not generally review amendments and that the Legislature's legal counsel's office had drafted the amendment in the first place.
Bryan called Solicitor General Frederick Handleman from the audience to comment on the amendment. Cole objected, saying the committee was already in the midst of debate. He warned that he would challenge the chair if Bryan took testimony from Handelman.
At that point, Bryan said he was adjourning the meeting and would reschedule the Internet gaming bill sometime after Handleman and the legislative legal counsel reviewed the amendment.
The clash with Cole, his protégée, was the second strain on Senate friendships for Bryan Friday. Earlier White, the majority leader, led the debate against Bryan's bill to regulate bingo. It was defeated on a 4 to 2 vote, with Hansen, a minority senator, siding with Bryan.
The atmosphere was more amenable the first few hours of the meeting, which were devoted to a continuation of hearings on Bryan's plan for sustainable economic development.
Amadeo Francis, director of Finance and Administration for the Public Finance Authority, complimented Bryan on the plan and said he hoped it would be coordinated with the administration's so-called Five Year Plan. That plan was developed more than a year ago.
Francis said two things are extremely important to developing investment in the territory: a one-stop licensing shop and the removal of the anti-business attitude that permeates much of the government.
Frank Mills, director of the Eastern Caribbean Center at the University of the Virgin Islands, said he was happy to see that the plan includes a centralized center for research and data collection.

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May 11, 2001 – The gambling issue strained legislative allegiances Friday, with Sen. Adlebert Bryan's committee members rejecting his bill to regulate bingo and Bryan abruptly adjouring the meeting rather than allow a vote on an Internet gaming bill which he opposes.
The action took place in a meeting of the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, which Bryan chairs.
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole offered an extensive amendment to the Internet gambling measure which he said was designed to address the concerns raised in earlier hearings by the Justice Department and the Casino Control Commission. Cole offered the amendment on behalf of Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd who is not a member of the committee but who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Vargrave Richards.
Bryan had offered his own lengthy amendement just before Cole's and it was defeated.
The original bill gave an exclusive franchise to United States Virgin Islands Technologies Initiative, LLP, a group formed specifically for Internet gaming.
Among other things, Bryan's amendment would have made the government the owner of the Internet gaming site and opened to competitive bidding contracts for a data center.
Only Sen. Emmett Hansen II voted with Bryan. Sens. Roosevelt David, Cole and Richards voted against. Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste was absent from the meeting, and Sen. Celestino White was absent for the vote.
Liburd's amendment, offered by Cole, attempted to hit a middle ground on the question of competition, by making way for a second franchisee, St. Croix Gaming, LLP. Paul Arnold, a principal of that company, had testified at a previous hearing that his company is prepared to get into the business.
The amendment also spelled out extensive investigations to be conducted by the Casino Control Commission and that the applicants for licenses or franchises would pay for those investigations. If the companies were found to be deficient in any way, then the government would put the franchise out on bid. Cole said Technologies Initiative "did all the work on it" so it is only fair that they get to put the concept into business.
Hansen objected to the amendment, citing testimony by Eileen Petersen, chairwoman of the Casino Control Commission, that if Internet gambling is run by a private company it should not have a name reflective of the Virgin Islands. He also questioned whether the Legislature can grant franchise agreements. But legislative legal counsel Yvonne Tharpes said it has that authority.
Bryan complained that the amendment was so long "it appears to rewrite the whole bill." He asked if the legal counsel's office had reviewed it, which it had not, said Tharpes. However, Cole noted that legal counsel does not generally review amendments and that the Legislature's legal counsel's office had drafted the amendment in the first place.
Bryan called Solicitor General Frederick Handleman from the audience to comment on the amendment. Cole objected, saying the committee was already in the midst of debate. He warned that he would challenge the chair if Bryan took testimony from Handelman.
At that point, Bryan said he was adjourning the meeting and would reschedule the Internet gaming bill sometime after Handleman and the legislative legal counsel reviewed the amendment.
The clash with Cole, his protégée, was the second strain on Senate friendships for Bryan Friday. Earlier White, the majority leader, led the debate against Bryan's bill to regulate bingo. It was defeated on a 4 to 2 vote, with Hansen, a minority senator, siding with Bryan.
The atmosphere was more amenable the first few hours of the meeting, which were devoted to a continuation of hearings on Bryan's plan for sustainable economic development.
Amadeo Francis, director of Finance and Administration for the Public Finance Authority, complimented Bryan on the plan and said he hoped it would be coordinated with the administration's so-called Five Year Plan. That plan was developed more than a year ago.
Francis said two things are extremely important to developing investment in the territory: a one-stop licensing shop and the removal of the anti-business attitude that permeates much of the government.
Frank Mills, director of the Eastern Caribbean Center at the University of the Virgin Islands, said he was happy to see that the plan includes a centralized center for research and data collection.