July 27, 2004 – The Casino Control Commission on Tuesday discussed proposed legislation to curb bad gambling habits on St. Croix, and Eileen Petersen, commission chair, said she wonders why the V.I. Lottery Commission seems unconcerned about how exposure to gambling might affect youngsters in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
Commission member Devin Carrington presented the information concerning the legislation. Most of his discussion concerned gamblers who admit addiction and are willing to enter a casino self-ban program.
He said in coming up with the proposed legislation, committee members debated how long the ban should be and what the penalties should be if the ban were broken.
He said in reading about what other jurisdictions have done concerning self-bans, he learned that many of the gambling addicts, after agreeing to a self-ban, returned to casinos wearing disguises.
One penalty such gamblers would face is forfeiture of any winnings. Carrington said those winnings would go to institutions that assist addicted gamblers. Those caught disregarding the ban also could face charges of criminal trespass.
According to Carrington, committee members debated making the self-ban last a lifetime. However, he said he worried that such a ban might discourage some gamblers "from getting the help they need."
The proposed change to the Casino Control Act that the commission is submitting to the Legislature and the governor includes a three-year self-ban program.
Carrington said casinos would be responsible for taking self-banned gamblers off their distribution lists for any mailings "that might encourage their addiction." Casinos also would not be allowed to offer credit to anyone self-banned.
After discussion of the proposal, Petersen asked what the V.I. Lottery Commission is doing "about all the people addicted to the lottery" and about youth being exposed to gambling behavior. She said video lottery terminals have been placed all over St. Thomas in locations where youth have access.
She pointed out that a person has to be 21 years of age to enter a casino in the territory. And she said studies show that youth between the ages of 15 and 19 are very susceptible to addictions such as gambling.
Attorney R. Oliver David, who is in charge of gaming enforcement for the commission, had been asked to look into those concerns at a previous meeting.
David reported having discussed the matter with Lottery Commission members and said he had done some investigating. He said he saw even pre-teens hanging around areas where the terminals are installed. He added that Lottery Commission members are aware of the exposure of youths to the gaming machines and are considering what might be done.
Petersen said she did not want to see the matter dropped and asked that David give an update to the commission at its next meeting.
Video lottery gaming, which is legal only in the St. Thomas-St. John district, has a history of controversy. (See "New Pact Gives VLT Operator the Green Light".)
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