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Racino Doing Well as Casino Gambling Putters Along

V.I. Casino Control Commission Executive Director Gizette Thomas at Monday's Senate hearing.Total casino gambling revenues in the territory are down slightly from last year, but tax receipts should increase slightly and business is shifting from Divi Carina Bay Casino to the new racino at Randall "Doc" James Racetrack, according to Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Gizette Thomas.

Thomas presented the commission’s 2012-13 budget request of $707,000 to the Finance Committee—nearly $200,000 less than 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 $468,000 of its operating budget will come from the Casino Revolving Fund and from the Casino Revenue Fund, she said.

In Fiscal Year 2010-11, the commission collected $207,000 in the Casino Revolving Fund from fees, fines and penalties, Thomas said. That is an increase from $139,000 the year before, and more than the agency has seen for the last several years.

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Money in the revolving fund goes to the Finance Department, which then gives $100,000 back to the commission for operating expenses.

The commission expects to submit an amendment modifying the budget request, Thomas said.
"The commission is working with the Office of Management and Budget to address an expected shortfall," of about $110,000, she said.

A total of $2.3 million was collected in the Casino Revenue Fund from Gross Revenue Taxes for FY 2010-11. Tax revenue reflects an 11.1 percent reduction from the year before.

As of May, FY 2011-12 gross revenue tax collections for casino operations are $1.2 million. This is a 30.4 percent decrease from the same period last year, she said.

While collections from Divi are down, the racino is expanding quickly. The racino opened in August 2011, just two months before the end of the fiscal year, and generated $41,000 in gross revenue tax collections for 2011. As of May, it has generated $489,000 for 2012.

According to the terms of the authorization, the St. Croix Horse Owners Association receives a significant proportion of those taxes, and received $16,000 for FY 2010-11 and $186,000 to date for FY 2011-12.

Although gross revenue from the casino and racino are very slightly down from the previous year, casino gambling tax revenues are up by 6.9 percent due to different tax rates at the racino and the casino, she said.

As with the casino, over 90 percent of racino customers are St. Croix residents, so the industry is not affected much by tourism, Thomas said. The Casino Control Commission’s data so far indicate customers tend to visit the racino more often, but gamble for shorter periods, she said.

The commission has regulatory oversight over casino gambling in the territory, issuing licenses, settling disputes and enforcing regulations.

Unlike many of the territory’s commissions, which are volunteer positions, the Casino Control Commissioners are paid salaries of $100,000 to $105,000. The current commissioners are Thomas, Violet Ann Golden, Roderick Moorehead and Henry Richardson.

No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing.

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