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Thursday, February 2, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesBudget 2011 Begins: Casino Control Commission

Budget 2011 Begins: Casino Control Commission

Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Gizette Thomas and Executive Director Debra Audain at budget hearings Thursday.Senate budget hearings got under way in earnest Thursday in Frederiksted as Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Gizette Thomas presented the commission’s 2011 budget request of $994,000 to the Appropriations and Budget Committee—an amount almost unchanged from last year.
“This sum would be used exclusively to fund salaries and fringe benefits for the personnel of the commission," Thomas said of the budget request. The remaining $448,000 of its operating budget will come from the Casino Revolving Fund and from the Casino Revenue Fund, she said.
The commission has regulatory oversight over casino gambling in the territory, issuing licenses, settling disputes and enforcing regulations.
In fiscal year 2009, the commission collected $158,628 in the Casino Revolving Fund from fees, fines and penalties, Thomas said. That marks a decline from $173,000 in 2008. So far this fiscal year, the commission has collected $33,000—about $6,000 less than at the same point last year.
Money in the revolving fund goes to the Finance Department, which then gives $100,000 back to the commission for operating expenses, she said.
The larger pool of money is the Casino Revenue Fund, replenished with gross revenue taxes on the territory’s one casino at St. Croix’s Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino. The Casino Revenue Fund collected $2.6 million in fiscal 2009, and as of March, had collected $1.3 million this fiscal year. That is a slight decline from the $2.7 million collected in 2008.
By law, the commission gets 10 percent of the Casino Revenue Fund for its operating expenses with the rest divided among an array of programs according to a statutory formula. The largest share, 18 percent, goes to the Education Department.
Local declines in casino revenue mirror the national trend, Thomas said.
"Overall, gaming revenues and tax revenues from the industry showed a second year of decline," she said. "The American Gaming Association reports that (national) revenues fell to $30.74 billion in 2009, a 5.5 percent decrease from 2008."
Gaming tax revenues fell by 1.6 percent to $5.6 billion, and jobs and wages fell across the industry, she said.
While set up by statute to have five members, at present, the commission only has two: Thomas and 5th Constitutional Convention Delegate Anne Golden. Unlike many of the territory’s commissions, which are volunteer positions, the Casino Control Commissioners are paid salaries of $100,000 to $105,000.
Thomas said she expected a third commissioner to be nominated soon. The statute is written so that the commission can perform its regular duties with the existing number of commissioners. A third commissioner is needed for a formal quorum, but there is not necessarily a need to fill the entire commission until such a time as there is a second casino in the territory, she said.
The commission has seven employees, two commissioners, an executive director a special assistant, two casino inspectors and an archivist.
No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing. Present were Sens. Craig Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Sprauve and Michael Thurland.

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