Governor Meets With Senators to Discuss Restarting Horse Racing in USVI

Horses race in 2011 at St. Croix's Randall 'Doc' James Racetrack. (File photo)
Horses racing action from 2011 at St. Croix’s Randall ‘Doc’ James Racetrack. (File photo)

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Thursday met with senators to discuss restarting the territory’s horse racing industry, which has been idle since the reconstruction was halted by a lawsuit between VIGL and Southland Gaming.

The governor met with current Senate President Novelle Francis Jr., incoming Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory, current chairman of the Youth, Sports, Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Sen. Javan James, and current Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Vialet.

Thursday’s meeting was convened to discuss the ongoing mediation between VIGL and Southland Gaming over the use of video lottery terminals at the racetracks, and the Government of the Virgin Islands is a party to the dispute because of its agreement with VIGL to rebuild and operate the racing facilities.

VIGL and Southland Gaming have reached a preliminary settlement, and the government has been reviewing those terms. On Thursday, Bryan shared a broad outline of what it will require legislatively to move the settlement forward, giving senators a preview of what the government is considering and providing them with an opportunity to weigh-in on items they think should be included or excluded from the proposed settlement.

“Our meeting was fruitful and productive, and the Legislature and the Bryan/Roach Administration are in accord with getting horse racing in the territory up and running as quickly as possible,”  Bryan said. “I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the 34th Legislature to making the revival of the horse racing industry a priority and jointly and proactively pushing this effort forward.”

Currently, VIGL, the company that operates Hotel Caravelle in Christiansted and has a number of other business holdings in the territory, has invested $17 million to rebuild, operate and manage the  Randall “Doc” James Race Track on St. Croix and the Clinton E. Phipps Race Track on St. Thomas.

“The current conversations are to ensure that both branches of government are in lockstep with the changes needed in order to settle the disagreement between the two parties and bring horse racing back to the territory. We know how important this is to the horsemen and racing fans,” Bryan said.

As the ongoing situation develops, the Virgin Islands Horse Racing Commission is in the process of finalizing the racing rules and regulations for the U.S. Virgin Islands.