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Casino Profits to Create Hospitality School

Feb. 20, 2006 – The Virgin Islands may soon have its long-discussed hospitality school.
Barbara Shattles, Divi Casino general manager, told members of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association at its meeting last week that classes could begin as early as this summer.
She said the school will focus students in culinary arts, hospitality work and travel arrangements.
When Divi Carina Bay Casino makes payments to the Internal Revenue Bureau, 2.5 percent of its gaming revenues go into an escrow account. This money, a tax alternative, is neither the government's nor the casino's to do with as it wants. The two entities have to agree on how it should be put to use.
The method was mandated by the Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 to insure that some of a casino's profits are invested in the Virgin Islands in a way that's beneficial for residents.
Divi proposed in the summer of 2004 to invest $1.2 million that was in that account in Randall "Doc" James Racetrack and the establishment of a hospitality industry training facility to serve the whole territory.
The investment in the racetrack hit rocky ground when the government refused to allow slot machines controlled by Divi at the racetrack. The debate between Shattles and certain senators became very public.
Shattles said Thursday, "I decided then that it was time that I turned to working on something I would really enjoy – the hospitality school."
She said the escrow account has grown since 2004 "and it keeps growing," but she was not sure how much money in it.
She said she had been in discussion with Sojourner-Douglass College for several months now, and the school has chosen a location on St. Croix, but all the details have not been finalized yet.
Sojourner-Douglass offers classes at five locations in Maryland and the Bahamas. Shattles said she plans to tour the Bahamas site soon.
For more about Sojourner-Douglass College, see the college's Web site at www.sdc.edu).
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