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HomeNewsLocal newsA Race to the “Racino” VIGL Goes Before Board

A Race to the “Racino” VIGL Goes Before Board

Community members pack into the Fritz E. Lawaetz conference room for the V.I. Casino Control Commission meeting Wednesday. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

In a race that seems to have no end, VIGL Operations, LLC went before the V.I. Casino Control Commission on Wednesday to address the license renewal application.

VIGL currently operates the Caravelle Hotel and Casino and is handling the reconstruction of the Randall “Doc” Racetrack on St. Croix. The sole purpose of the hearing was to determine the qualification for VIGL for a casino license renewal and a racino license.

At the hearing, most of the testimonies were in favor of VIGL’s license to be renewed for both locations.

“Throughout VIGL has been in compliance with the regulations. There have been issues that have arisen and have all been addressed. Two complaints and one filed after our petition was submitted. Two complaints filed by gaming enforcement which were both settled and resolved. The one that was filed after the petition is in process of working its way through. Other than those issues that arose, VIGL has complied with rules and regulations,” Devin Carrington, legal counsel to VIGL said in terms of the Caravelle location.

Elroy Bates, Jr., president of the Flamboyant Park Horsemen Association, testifies in front of the V.I. Casino Control Commission. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

In regards to the Randall “Doc” Racetrack, Elroy Bates, Jr., president of the Flamboyant Park Horsemen Association, said, “We, the Flamboyant Park Horseman Association, favor the VICCC granting VIGL their racino license. First, if this racino license is not granted, no horse racing will occur on St. Croix. Without a racino, horse racing is not self-sustainable.”

“It has been eight years since the Randall Doc Racetrack was closed. With the issuance of this license, we are much closer to opening,” said Bates.

During questioning board member Luther Renee asked Bates, “Is it your testimony that horse racing be able to operate successfully without a racino?” Bates responded, “Yes”.  Vice Chair Carolyn Hermon-Percell asked for more information, and Bates said, “The casino makes up for the purses and the maintenance of the racetrack. There’s not that many people that attend the racetrack; the casino makes up for it.”

Chairman Marvin Pickering questioned the CFO of VIGL, Andrew Dubuque, as to the completion of the racetrack, “What are the timelines for the completion thus far,” he said.

“The entire project is going to depend on our permits, obviously, but I hope to have everything completed in 24 months. As soon as we get our license, we can pour the foundation,” Dubuque said. Dubuque also confirmed that there were 30 more minor building permits that needed to be secured.

Also testifying in person was Betty Wilson, and written statements were also submitted by Dodson James, chairman of the St. Croix Horse Racing Commission and Susan Barnes on behalf of Treasure Bay VI (TBVI).

Barnes said that TBVI operated the Randall “Doc” Racetrack from 2004 to May 4, 2016, and it operated the racino from 2011 to May 6, 2016. In her letter, Barnes said that legislation was passed upon TBVI to maintain live horse racing to operate a racino.

Barnes said that TBVI was removed on May 6, 2016, which Barnes said was unlawful, and in return, took legal actions.

Barnes said that negotiations were on the way between the government and VIGL if they withdrew the action. Negotiations turned into an agreement that would return to operating a racino if agreed upon.

Under the agreement, Barnes said that VIGL agreed to construct a 4,800-square-foot racino to operate for two years and that all of these agreements were approved by the Casino Commission. “It is unclear prior to operating at this stage. Most noticeable is construction and operation of a live racing facility. We respectfully suggest that VIGL racino license not be considered until VIGL is fully compliant with all bargaining agreements,” said Barnes.

In what seemed to go back and forth for a couple of minutes, legal counsel for VIGL, Carrington, was adamant when questioned by board member Carolyn Hermon-Percell that VIGL would come to an agreement with TBVI and that there is only one racino license and VIGL had full intentions of ownership of this license.

In previous hearings in 2018 and 2019, concerns were raised that VIGL did not meet the requirement of adding a sufficient number of hotel rooms to earn a casino license for the Caravelle site.

As for the racino at the racetrack, it has had a long history of stumbling blocks. Last summer, there were protests that the seating capacity had been downsized from the original plans. VIGL later said it addressed those concerns.

In a press release last month, VIGL stated all “long-awaited” permits had been obtained and renovations were moving forward.

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