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HomeNewsArchivesST. THOMAS-ST. JOHN CHAMBER: REPEAL VLT LAW

ST. THOMAS-ST. JOHN CHAMBER: REPEAL VLT LAW

Jan. 24, 2003 – In the view of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, what the district needs to improve its economic outlook is not the introduction of video lottery gambling but more effective marketing and managing of its — and the whole territory's — tourism product.
The chamber board voted on Friday to urge the 25th Legislature to approve the measure submitted by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull this week calling for repeal of a new law legalizing video lottery operations in the district.
But also, the chamber president, Cassan A. Pancham, said, "now is the time to work for the creation of a private/public tourism authority."
The chamber board vote was "overwhelmingly" in favor of repealing the VLT legislation, Pancham said in a release. "The chamber strongly believes that taking the path of gambling is not where the district of St. Thomas-St. John should be headed," he said.
The territory needs to attract new revenue streams and strengthen the local economy, according to Pancham. The chamber believes that the way to accomplish this, he said, is "to focus on the development of our tourism product" and "to attract financial service companies, promote our Economic Development Authority, revitalize our marine industry and negotiate with airline carriers for additional airlift to the territory."
He added: "There is absolutely no reason why direct flights from Boston are less than 50 percent filled when temperatures are freezing across the Northeast."
The governor in his State of the Territory address on Jan. 13 stated: "This administration continues to advocate the establishment of a tourism authority in which all stakeholders are equally and fairly represented." That sentence seemed to send a clear signal that he will continue to oppose, as he did in his first administration, any such entity in which the private sector could call the shots — which was what the business sector proposed four years ago.
At the end of 1999, Turnbull's first year in office, the territory's chambers of commerce and hotel and tourism associations jointly drafted and lobbied for legislation to create a tourism organization whose makeup would have the business sector in the majority. More than a year later, a version of the measure won legislative approval, but in February 2001 Turnbull vetoed it. (See "Tourism industry blasts Turnbull over veto, tax".)
Two months after that, the governor announced the creation of a Tourism Advisory Committee comprising four business-sector and four government members plus the Tourism commissioner as chair. The four business members he named were the executive directors of the chambers and hotel associations — whose boards proceeded to say thanks but no thanks. Months later, Turnbull announced other private-sector members, but the committee, publicly at least, was never heard from again.
The chamber stands ready to work with the Legislature on economic development issues, Pancham said, and "will work with the public sector" on addressing the territory's crisis in education and its crime problems.

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