Lack of timely action by the Legislature may jeopardize a $30 million private investment in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ horseracing industry.
Amendments to the landmark agreement ratified last year with local casino operator VIGL to revitalize the Territory’s horseracing industry must be approved in order for the project to move forward. The agreement, which stands to create dozens of new jobs and make the Virgin Islands the region’s premier destination for horse racing, calls for nearly $30 million in private capital to build modern state-of-the-art racetracks and related facilities on both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Governor Mapp sent correspondence to the Legislature on Thursday calling the body into special session on May 10, 2017 in order to make the changes necessary for the economic revitalization project to move forward. This is the third time Senators have been formally asked to move the necessary legislation – the measures were included in the original agreement package ratified last year and were forwarded again to senators in January.
At primary issue, is the Territory’s lack of regulations prohibiting the doping of horses.
“Today, I am disappointed that I must tell you that the delay in completing our contractual obligations caused by a lack of timely action of the Legislature is putting this $30 million private investment in jeopardy,” the Governor wrote in his letter to Senate President Myron Jackson. “In short, we may lose this deal because we are not fulfilling our end of the agreement to provide a statutory environment for clean, transparent and legal horseracing…Who would invest $30 million in racing facilities in a jurisdiction that would permit and, by your deletion, promote the doping of horses with illegal substances to enhance the horse’s performance?”
The Governor said failure to enact the anti-doping provision would “most certainly kill” the effort to modernize and expand our horseracing industry.
“Every US jurisdiction with a thriving horse racing industry has adopted and enforces strong anti-doping statutes,” the Governor wrote.
The agreement, which calls for very specific execution timelines, is expected to transform the Clinton E. Phipps and Randolph “Doc” James facilities over the next 18 months. Numerous new opportunities for young people interested in racing, horses, veterinary science and hospitality will be developed and the agreement calls for more than $100,000 in related scholarships. Many new short and long term jobs will be created, starting with the construction phase, which includes:
- The refurbishment and expansion of the territory’s two racetracks.
- Construction of bars, restaurants, lounges, restrooms, viewing stands, parking, jockey locker rooms and vendor kiosks.
- New barns, quarantine areas and veterinary care facilities for horses.
VIGL must provide for a minimum of 18 live race days annually on both St. Thomas and St. Croix in the first three years and a minimum of 24 each year thereafter. Races will have a $100,000 minimum purse per race day.
The Governor is also requesting that senators reinstate provisions removed from the original agreement to consolidate the St. Thomas and St. Croix Horse Racing Commissions and to disburse funds from the anticipated increase in casino fees to include money set aside for hospitality training, the promotion of local agriculture, youth sports programs and the long term care of retired racehorses.
Governor Mapp said the agreement and the legislation sent down to Senators on Thursday offers evidence of the Mapp-Potter Administration’s commitment to sports tourism, economic development and creating new opportunities for all Virgin Islanders.
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