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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Casino Commission Digging Out of Credit Hole

Marvin Pickering listens to a question from a senator at Tuesday’s hearing. (Screenshot from Senate Livestream)

Marvin Pickering, chairman and chief executive officer of the V. I. Casino Control Commission, said the Commission is suffering financially from the actions of the former chairman, whose actions led to a prison sentence.

Pickering said at Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, “Due to questionable transactions of a past chairman, the Commission is liable to repay to the youth programs fund a total of $39,878 improperly spent from the fund. In addition, the Commission is also making payments to Banco Popular on a credit card that was issued to the Commission with that same former chairman as an authorized user. The balance amounts to $47,740, with a scheduled monthly payment of $1,141 deducted from the commission’s operating account.”

Sen. Carla Joseph is looking at the credit card total, and the scheduled payment said that could take “three or four years to pay off.”

Pickering said that it could be even worse, “It is a credit card. There is interest involved.”

Sen. Donn Frett-Gregory questioned why the commission had not had any audits in the last few years. Pickering, again pointing to the recent history of the Commission, said, “Financial records were in total disarray.” He added now that there were two years of accurate information, an audit would be done in the upcoming fiscal year.

Another bit of history has also hurt the Commission. It used to receive funds from the Horse Racetrack Casino Revenue fund. However, that fund dried up in 2016 when Traxco ceased operations at the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack. Ongoing litigation has put horse racing at both territory’s tracks on hold.

In his written testimony, Pickering said the General Fund request was $995,700. However, he acknowledged that the total request would be closer to $1.4 million because the government was responsible for Commission’s employee costs, and the cost of fringe benefits was not included in the first figure.

The request would fund 15 employees, including three vacancies. The vacant positions are for a commissioner to fill the seat vacated in April by Usie Richards and two new positions: an in-house legal counsel and an IT support person.

Frett-Gregory said that 20 years ago, it was thought that the Casino Commission would stand on its own by this time, but no new casinos came, and none were on the horizon. She added that maybe the system should change.

Sen. Kurt Vialet said some states were putting all gambling operations under one entity. (The Finance Committee had heard from the V.I. Lottery earlier in the day.)

Pickering said that option “deserves some careful study.”

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