Even more Video Lottery Terminals will soon be added to Cruz Bay when Southland Gaming opens its proposed nightclub in Wharfside Village, and the potential increase in VLTs — of which St. John already has 42, with many located close to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Cruz Bay — has raised concern at V.I. Lottery.
V.I. Lottery Executive Director Lenyse Shomo, who was unsure of Southland Gaming’s plan for the vacant former location of Larry’s Landing, visited St. John last week to take stock of the island’s VLT situation.
“I am concerned about how many VLTs we’re wrapping around the church and in that Wharfside area,” said Shomo. “Right now, I’m not quite up to par on what Southland thinks they’re doing.”
Southland Gaming does have an accounts manager within the V.I. Lottery, to whom residents can address their concerns, Shomo added.
Shane Gaspard of Southland Gaming refused to comment on the company’s proposed plan for Wharfside Village, and would not release contact information for the woman he identified as his spokesperson, Andrea Martin. Gaspard planned to instruct Martin to send a press release regarding the new nightclub to St. John Tradewinds, however a release was not received as of press time.
While gambling is legal in the territory, a moratorium on casinos is in place for the St. Thomas-St. John District; however, the moratorium is ripe to be challenged, according to Shomo.
“My understanding is the moratorium has been up for a few years, but no one’s challenged it,” she said. “You can’t make laws in the territory for only one island, so once they gave casinos to St. Croix, that had to be an option for St. Thomas. Where we are in the moratorium process, or what has to take place to change that, I can’t give an opinion on.”
The rules and regulations governing VLTs in the territory have not been promulgated, Shomo added.
“As far as the laws that govern these games, those are not set in stone yet,” she said. “It’s a matter of wanting to get it right the first time. We had things in place that were temporary, but now that we want to have a permanent situation, we want to make sure the rules are right, so we’ve been looking at how other jurisdictions handle their VLTs — especially the ones that do it in a good, positive way.”
Write V.I. Lottery with Concerns
The St. Thomas-St. John District is currently limited to 1,000 VLTs, and the district has approximately 600 of the machines, according to Shomo.
“Would the director allow the remaining 400 machines to go on St. John?” she said. “No, it wouldn’t be prudent businesswise or ethically. A lot is left up to the discretion of the director.”
The one thing that may keep the nightclub and VLTs from moving in to Wharfside Village is a liquor license. A business is not allowed to open with the sole purpose of installing VLTs; the business must also sell liquor or food, according to Shomo. Tavern keeper licenses are not granted to bars within 100 feet of a church, according to the V.I. code, and Wharfside Village is within 100 feet of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
“To the people who are concerned, put pen to paper,” said Shomo. “The V.I. Lottery Commission has the final say in all of this.”
St. Johnian Oswin Sewer is on the Lottery Commission, Shomo added. Concerns regarding the planned new VLTs at Wharfside Village should be addressed to the V.I. Lottery Commission, V.I. Lottery Executive Director Paul Fleming or Southland Gaming’s accounts manager at V.I. Lottery, Michael Toussand. All can be reached by mail at 8A Ross Estate, Barbel Plaza South, St. Thomas, VI 00802.