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MAJOR CASINO PLANS REPORTED BACK ON TRACK

Aug 10, 2001 – The attorney for the developers of the proposed $500 million Seven Hills Beach Resort and Casino on St. Croix says that, based on Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's veto this week of video lottery terminal enabling legislation, they have decided not to pull out of the territory.
Robin Bay Associates LLC is prepared to move forward immediately as soon as the Legislature acts on a rezoning bill, according to Jeffrey Moorhead, attorney for the firm. Moorhead said Sens. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Vargrave Richards introduced a rezoning bill in July and he hopes to see it "fast tracked." A public hearing is required, Moorhead noted.
The developers had said they would call off their development plans if the VLT bill was allowed to become law. Robin Bay and other casino developers vehemently opposed introduction of VLT's, saying they would be in direct competition with casino gaming. They also said the 24th Legislature's having voted twice this year to bring video lottery into the territory displayed instability, one thing the gambling community cannot live with.
Moorhead said his clients want to be assured there will be no more "makeshift intrusion" of the V.I. casino gaming law.
Eileen Petersen, the Casino Control Commission chair; Bernie Burkholder, chief executive of the Divi Casino — the only casino in operation in the territory; and others in the business community also spoke out against the video gaming legislation being sent to the governor again in July, after Turnbull had vetoed it in May.
It appears unlikely that the Senate will have the necessary 10 votes to override the governor's second veto. The legislation was first introduced in April by Sen. Emmett Hansen II, who himself subsequently asked Turnbull to veto the bill after learning more about its "possible negative effect on the community."
The bill first made its appearance in the Senate as a handwritten amendment to other legislation at a full session on April 10. It was offered by Hansen and Sen. Carlton Dowe, and the motion was seconded by Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole.
Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. introduced the more recent bill, which was hidden in the massive supplemental appropriations bill and never voted upon separately as an amendment. Cole and Sen. David Jones have publicly endorsed the measure in the last week.
Hansen and Sen. Vargrave Richards have spoken out against the bill and possible attempts at overriding its veto. Richards has introduced legislation requiring that a binding referendum be held before the Legislature can approve any future gaming. Richards said his move is intended "to ensure that current and future investors have a margin of security in knowing that their investment(s) will be protected and upheld."
According to Moorhead, "Investors from all over have been calling my office" since the Source published several articles concerning the VLT controversy. He said he has had calls from parties in the Dominican Republic and from the Eastern Caribbean asking him to send his clients there. But "we're not budging," Moorhead said, noting that "the application fee for the rezoning alone was $15,000."

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