Feb. 3, 2003 – The territory could see a shift in the way games of chance are regulated if legislation being drafted at the request of Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone becomes law.
Malone hand delivered a letter to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on Friday announcing his intention to offer a bill that would create a V.I. Gaming Commission that would put all gambling operations under a single agency. The new entity would probably supersede the Casino Control Commission, the V.I. Lottery Commission and the Racing Commission, he said.
The Casino Control Commission oversees casino gaming, which is allowed only on St. Croix, and is the regulatory body for Internet gambling, which was legalized in the territory last year but is not yet operational. The V.I. Lottery has oversight for traditional lottery ticket sales, operations of Caribbean Lottery Services, including the stateside Powerball game added last November, and video lottery operations recently legalized for St. Thomas and St. John. The Racing Commission regulates horse racing.
A single body to oversee gaming is necessary to "formulate overall and administrative policy, perform due diligence, monitor compliance and track the economic benefits of existing and potential operators and games," Malone told the governor.
The freshman senator from the St. Thomas-St. John district said the new commission would be instrumental in achieving a comprehensive and transparent approach to all games of chance. "The recent increase in the number and types of games of chance in the territory elevates the need to increase our oversight, monitoring and due diligence," he wrote.
The bill is still being formulated, Malone said on Monday, but he envisions a commission of seven or nine members divided into three or four divisions. His intent, he said, "is not to duplicate two or three times what we can do once."
But the proposal could be a hard sell to members of the Casino Control Commission. Member Imelda Dizon on Monday said the Legislature needs to scrutinize the measure and ensure it is to the benefit of the industry and the territory before changing any laws.
There has been "talk about consolidating gaming for years," Dizon said. "For that to happen, a lot of things have to be ironed out. I would hope if they're going to take that line, they would explore all the pros and cons about it."
According to Malone, "What I really want to do is marshal our resources to one area to maximize them."
But meanwhile, given the early stage of his proposal, he also is urging Turnbull to submit nominees to fill the five vacancies on the Lottery Commission. With only two sitting members, the body has not met for almost five years. Given the situation, the Legislature empowered the lottery executive director, Austin Andrews, to take unilateral action until a functional board is in place.
The recent legalization of video lottery terminals reinforces the need for an operational commission, Malone said.
According to his letter, prospective Lottery Commission nominees have shied away because of reluctance to subject themselves to the "often rancorous" legislative nomination process. Malone pledged to the governor that the 25th Legislature will be respectful and amenable toward nominees.
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