V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer has issued a legal opinion that internet gambling is already legal in the territory due to a 2001 law, opening up the territory to begin licensing it, according to Government House.
“This marks a turning point in the diversification of our gaming industry from land-based casinos and racinos to internet gaming and gambling," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in a statement.
On March 7, the Casino Control Commission requested an opinion from the attorney general on the legality of the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act and, after review, Frazer opined the existing law is legal and sufficient.
Frazer’s letter also affirmed a 2002 opinion of former Attorney General Iver Stridiron, which concluded: “The Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Gambling Act would be considered consistent with Federal and Territorial law as long as internet gambling is limited to games of chance, players of lawful age, and no bets are received or taken from an individual located in a jurisdiction that prohibits gambling.”
That law, Act 6419, "has been the subject of much scrutiny since it was enacted,” deJongh said.
"Due to a narrow interpretation of the federal ‘Wire Act’ relating in part to gambling," deJongh said, in 2004, former U.S. Attorney David Nissman issued a letter to Judge Eileen Petersen advising the Casino Control Commission that the Department of Justice believed that “federal law prohibited all forms of internet gambling, including casino-style gambling, occurring within a state, commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.”
Based on that 2004 conclusion, the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act lay dormant until acting Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Ann Golden revisited the issue, according to Government House.
"With this new confirmation from Attorney General Frazer, the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission can now proceed with plans to implement the Act, subject to all federal and local regulations on the matter.” deJongh said.
Frazer urged caution in implementation to ensure that “the territory utilize systems and programs that would permit only adults to utilize the internet for gaming purposes in jurisdictions where such gaming and gambling are permissible as a matter of law.” Technology already exists to restrict access to internet gambling by location and age, he said.
Golden said the commission will comply with all the mandates under the act to ensure that minors and persons in states where gambling is prohibited cannot access internet gaming sites licensed in the Virgin Islands.
"This decision places the Virgin Islands in a key position nationally since it is only the third U.S. jurisdiction to implement internet gambling, and the first U.S. territory to enact an internet gaming and gambling statute,” Golden said.