The two-member board of the V.I. Casino Control Commission heard one side of a petition to show cause involving Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino’s license and will act on it even though the other side – the respondent – didn’t attend Tuesday’s scheduled meeting.
A show-cause petition is a court order to appear on a specified date and time to explain, or show cause, why an order requested by the opposing party should not be made. In this instance, the Division of Gaming Enforcement wants hotel rooms repaired and reopened at Divi Carina Bay Resort in accordance with their gaming license.
Usie Richards, acting commission chairman, and Stacy Bourne, commission secretary/treasurer, questioned R. Oliver David, assistant attorney general and acting director for the Division of Gaming Enforcement, about the resort and casino’s compliance in completing extensive repairs to hotel accommodations after the 2017 hurricanes.
Representatives from Treasure Bay, VI Corp and Grapetree Shores, Inc., owners of the casino and resort, did not attend the scheduled monthly meeting, instead sending a letter through attorney Charles Lockwood asking for the petition to be vacated, according to David. Lockwood also wrote that no one from the companies would attend the meeting.
David told Richards and Bourne that Gaming Enforcement initiated an investigation into the reconstruction of the hotel and casino after two site visits and speaking with the general managers. In October 2019 the room units were said to be 85 to 90 percent completed. But, according to David, it looked like a lot more work needed to be done. The east and west wings of the hotel seemed to be not much further from completion either. David filed the complaint asking the Casino Commission to review Divi’s license because the stipulated number of hotel rooms – 75 – are not open, but the casino is doing business.
“The commission granted a license and extended the license, but they don’t have the rooms, pursuant to law. They don’t have the rooms and are in violation,” David said.
Last October, Divi’s license was extended for six months contingent on the completion of accommodations by May 1. That deadline was not met.
Richards said based on “a number of extensions” to the gaming license, and the use of previous such petitions, he would vote to take action.
Within five to seven days, Richards said, the Casino Commission will announce whether Divi’s gaming license will be revoked, suspended or if a fine will be imposed. David said they could opt also to do nothing.
The Source contacted the respondents for a comment about the hearing and why no one attended the meeting. Anton Kuipers, Divi Carina Bay Casino general manager, seemed surprised at the meeting’s outcome, and Susan Varnes, president and chief operating officer for Treasure Bay, wrote that it was “extremely troubling.”
Varnes wrote an email explaining that the companies have kept the commission up to date with their work progress, and they look forward to presenting evidence why the court order was not warranted.
David said Treasure Bay, Grapetree Shores and their attorney, Todd Newman, were notified by email Oct. 5 and with a hand-delivered letter on Oct. 6, with the request to show cause on Oct. 13. The owners’ motion was hand-delivered to the commission on Oct. 8, two days later. Varnes said they believed, since the meeting was held on such short notice, the commission would vacate the hearing and allow them time to respond.
Another letter was delivered on Oct. 13 making it clear that Treasure Bay and Grapetree Shores personnel could not attend the hearing. Varnes and other officials were in Mississippi, in the path of Hurricane Delta, when they received the hearing notice. Dealing with hurricane preparations and possible shutdown, they were also unable to get negative COVID-19 tests in time to travel to St. Croix.
“We could have attended if proper notice had been given to prepare for and travel to the hearing, which is why laws regarding proper hearing notice exist,” Varnes wrote. “I truly hope that the commission tables this action and tries to understand that we and the contractors are doing the best we can in a very difficult situation to complete the renovations.”