U.S. Virgin Islands Raises Casino Fees

Virgin Islands casino employees and operators are facing newly increased fees under recently passed amendments. Commission Chairperson Violet Ann Golden said for 15 years the commission did not collect what was allowed by law. Susan Varnes (l.), president of Treasure Bay VI, called the fee raises "anti-business."

The Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission recently adopted numerous amendments, increasing employee and operating fees. Commission Chairperson Violet Ann Golden said, “For 15 years, the Casino Commission discounted the fees by half. We didn’t collect what the law said we could. We are confident it’s going to be reasonable and no extra burden on men and women working at the casino.” Treasure Bay VI President Susan Varnes called the fee increases “anti-business” and noted they were more than 170 times higher than gaming operations in the U.S.

The V.I. legislature and the governor still must also approve the VICCC amendments.

Under the new amendments, key casino employees will pay $600 for a license the first year, then $400 every two years. In the past, the VICCC issued two-year licenses for $600. They also will pay $120 an hour in investigative fees. Other employees will pay $450 for a license the first year, then $400 every two years. Casino security employees will pay a $50 annual registration fee instead of a one-time fee.

In addition, the annual license fee per slot machines will be $260, up from $250. Alcoholic beverage licenses will increase from $75 to $150 a day and non-gaming related service licenses of $1,800 will run for two instead of three years.

Also under the new amendments casinos with 300-1,499 rooms will pay $420,000 instead of $560,000 for the fourth year license. A 200-299 room casino like Divi Carina Bay will pay $180,000 instead of $240,000. A four-year renewal license for a racino will be $75,000, not $100,000.

In addition, the commission ruled the deadline has passed for racetrack operator TRAXCO, a subsidiary of Treasure Bay, to make improvements at the facility. For months, the Flamboyant Horsemen Association Inc. has filed complaints about the track’s low purses and physical conditions. Treasure Bay General manager Anton Kuipers said physical improvements were delayed due to the poor local economy. However, he said, the track was installing 80 gaming machines and building an office for the VICCC.

Golden gave TRAXCO a new deadline to provide architectural designs for improvements to the racetrack. She said the VICCC will meet with company officials to discuss the construction process and timeline. “The Virgin Islands deserves better. Improve it and people will come,” Golden said.