As Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed legislation to let slot machine operator VIGL Operations run the St. Thomas and St. Croix horse racing tracks and set up slot machine parlors at them, he asked senators to act on parts of his proposal they cut from the bill for more consideration. In particular, Mapp asked the Senate to put back restrictions on horse "doping," new rules for how horse track slot machine revenue is distributed and consolidating the territory’s horse racing commissions.
In a letter, Mapp thanked senators for passing much of his proposal, saying "this dedication only underscores your commitment to serve the needs of the people of our community.”
But he said sections which banned illegal doping of horses and authorized mandatory random testing to insure that prohibited drugs and substances are not used in V.I. horse racing were important, as currently there is no V.I. anti-doping policy or law.
Anti-doping rules are "essential, if we truly want to promote horse racing as sports tourism in the Virgin Islands,” Mapp said.
“In fact, there is a ground swell of support by jockeys, trainers, horse racing fans, and owners for drug and medication reforms in the industry.”
While the legislation approved by the Legislature increased taxes on horse track slot machine revenue from 19.25 percent to 25 percent, senators removed sections directing how those funds should be divided.
But despite the proliferation of "video lottery terminals" on St. Thomas and St. John, slots were only legal on St. Croix. So before the new legislation, V.I. law only addressed slot machines at the St. Croix track.
The pre-existing fee structure only provides fees to be distributed to the St. Croix District Horsemen Association, giving it 38 percent of the take. But Mapp’s plan aimed at helping horse racing in both districts, reserving 50 percent of tax revenue – 25 percent per district – for the commission and race purses.
Mapp’s letter also said he was concerned the action denied fund to "entities that have codified responsibility under the law including the management of retirement of horses."
Mapp’s proposal devoted 4 percent of tax revenues from the slots to the Agriculture Revolving Fund with "a certain percentage" of that 4 percent of the tax revenue earmarked to help Agriculture address retired race horses and euthanasia for sick or injured horses.
Mapp asked senators to revisit this section and amend the legislation to restore the fee distribution structure that was originally proposed, saying the increased tax rate and increased slot machines would mean more revenue for both districts than before.
Mapp is asking the Senate to adopt the anti-doping law, create a single territorial racing commission, and distribute the anticipated revenues to regulate and manage the industry, care for retired horses, provide funds for hospitality training and support programs for our youth, creating a new vibrant segment in Virgin Islands economy.