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TRAXCO's Plans for Racetrack Receive More Scrutiny

Nov. 23, 2005 – TRAXCO has gained the attention of the V.I. Senators.
Barbara Shattles, vice president of TRAXCO, Inc. said in a press conference on Nov. 15, at which TRAXCO announced it was closing down all operations at Randall "Doc" James Racetrack, that TRAXCO had a hard time getting senators to work with TRAXCO. She said TRAXCO had been trying to get a variance since July so gaming devices could be placed at the track. (See "TRAXCO Shuts Down Operations at Racetrack").
But the recent attention the Senate has been paying TRAXCO is probably not the attention that Shattles, who is the General Manager of Divi Bay Casino, which is owned by Treasure Bay V.I. Corp, which is also the parent company of TRAXCO, really wants.
TRAXCO officials wanted the variance granted quickly because, according to TRAXCO General Manager Dennis Brow, the track is losing $73,000 a month, and that is why Thanksgiving races had to be cancelled.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg made an effort to call a special session on Wednesday so the variance could be granted "to allow horse racing on Thanksgiving day and races thereafter on the Island of St. Croix."
However, he did not gain enough signatures for his petition to force the special session.
Instead, there was a meeting of St. Croix senators this week where most apparently agreed that the TRAXCO matter needed more discussion.
That discussion will come Tuesday as Sen. Neville James, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development Planning and Environmental Protection, has called for his committee to convene at 2 p.m. to receive testimony and act on Bill No. 26-0182, to amend VI Code Title 29, §22 S to allow gaming devices as approved by the Casino Gaming Commission in bars and taverns.
The committee in its morning session at St. Croix Legislative conference room will deal with The Pesticide Control Act of 2005.
James said Wednesday that the TRAXCO hearing would deal with more specific issues about TRAXCO than the hearing his committee held at the end of October. He said, "They say they are losing money. We have to find out why and if these machines will solve the problem." (See "Slot Machines at Horse Track Questioned").
He said a second part of the issue is that allowing these machines at the racetrack in what would be called a racino is something that the Casino Control Act did not really anticipate, and maybe "backdooring" the racino through a variance may not be best way to handle it.
Donastorg said Wednesday night that TRAXCO had already made financial reports to the government. He said, "We could have dealt with this in one day." He said that TRAXCO is losing money and needed the Senate to deal with the problem "ASAP."
He said, "I think it was irresponsible of the institution to procrastinate here."
He mentioned a private meeting of some senators where the decision maybe was made to derail TRAXCO's efforts.
According to a press release from the office of Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, "In the matter of TRAXCO's request for a zoning variance, senators agreed to abide by the vote taken to send the bill to the committee on Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection. This is perhaps the best way to ensure a thorough and transparent view of all pertinent facts and circumstances, and to ensure that any action taken by senators would be fair and equitable, and also in the best interest of the Crucian community."
The release said Sens. Jn Baptiste, James, and Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Juan Figueroa-Servile, Ronald Russell and a representative of the Office of Sen. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion attended the meeting.
Invited to testify at the Tuesday hearing are Casino Control Commission Chairperson Eileen Petersen, Department of Planning and Natural Resource Commissioner Dean Plaskett, Bureau of Economic Research Director Lauritz Mills, Shattles, and Horseman Association Racing Protective Syndicate president Antonio Williams.
At the previous committee hearing, Chris Elliot, partner in the proposed development of William and Punch casino and resort, testified that potential backers for developments on St. Croix were concerned that the government was changing the rules in the middle of the game.
James said, although potential developers did not receive invitations to testify at the hearing, they would be welcomed if they contacted his office.
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