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USVI government gives internet gaming the green light

by: - posted on: 31-Oct-2013

The US Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission and the Office of the Governor on Wednesday issued a much anticipated press statement confirming that the "Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act" is legal.

Governor John de Jongh said, "This marks a turning point in the diversification of our gaming industry from land-based casinos and racinos, to internet gaming and gambling."

The implementation of this Act will fulfill our mission of attracting very successful global internet gaming companies to the Virgin Islands, and encourage new investments to our struggling economy, he added.

On March 7, 2013, the Casino Control Commission requested an opinion of Attorney General Vincent Frazer on the legality of the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act. Section 604-1.1 of the Internet Gaming and Gambling Final Regulations grants the Commission the authority to request a legal opinion of the Virgin Islands Department of Justice "regarding whether Internet gaming or Internet gambling can be operated in compliance with all federal and territorial law."

After an extensive review of all relevant territorial and federal statutes, the attorney general opined that the Act was legal. De Jongh received a copy of Frazer's letter on the legality of the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act on October 18, 2013, the same day it was transmitted to Violet Anne Golden, acting chairman of the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission.

In his advisory letter to Golden, Frazer outlined the legality of Act 6419, which was passed by the USVI Legislature on July 18, 2001. The attorney general's opinion stated emphatically that the act is legal, de Jongh stated.

The advisory letter also affirmed the opinion of former Attorney General Iver Stridiron, which was issued in November 2002.

It concluded, "The Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Gambling Act would be considered consistent with Federal and Territorial law as long as internet gambling is limited to games of chance, players of lawful age, and no bets are received or taken from an individual located in a jurisdiction that prohibits gambling."

"Act 6419 has been the subject of much scrutiny since it was enacted," deJongh said, noting that "due to a narrow interpretation of the federal 'Wire Act' relating in part to gambling, on January 2, 2004 former US Attorney David Nissman issued a letter to Judge Petersen advising the Commission that the Department of Justice believed that "federal law prohibited all forms of internet gambling, including casino-style gambling, occurring within a state, commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States."

Based on that 2004 conclusion, the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act lay dormant until Golden revisited the issue. With this new confirmation from Frazer, the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission can now proceed with plans to implement the Act, subject to all federal and local regulations on the matter." de Jongh stated.

Frazer urged caution in implementation to ensure that "the territory utilize systems and programs that would permit only adults to utilize the internet for gaming purposes in jurisdictions where such gaming and gambling are permissible as a matter of law."

Technology already exists to restrict access to internet gambling by location and age.

Golden stated, "The Commission will comply with all the mandates under the Act to ensure that minors and persons in states where gambling is prohibited cannot access Internet sites licensed in the Virgin Islands."

Golden said this day was long in coming, and could not be possible without the efforts of de Jongh, Frazer and supportive members of the Legislature.

"Since taking office, Governor de Jongh has made the revitalization of St Croix's economy a key priority, and today's decision marks the latest signature investment in St Croix," Golden stated.

"Governor de Jongh's assurances were extremely important to the success of this process. In the long-run, the interstate relationships and partnerships we develop will go a long way in assuring our long-term viability and success. This decision places the Virgin Islands in a key position nationally, since it is only the third US jurisdiction to implement Internet Gambling, and the first US Territory to enact an internet gaming and gambling statute," Golden added.

At a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis, the implementation of Internet Gaming and Gambling will attract gaming related technology companies to the territory, creating new jobs, while transforming St Croix and the US Virgin Islands into a gaming leader in the Caribbean. The newly-constructed Research and Technology Park, the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network project, the Global Crossing Fiber Optic Network, and the presence of other technology companies on St Croix, places the territory in a unique position to be an internet gaming leader and e-commerce hub in the region.

H2 Gambling Capital, a leading supplier of data and market intelligence regarding the global gambling industry, issued an economic impact assessment in April 2010 entitled "United States: Regulated Internet Gambling", which concluded that "regulated internet gambling has the potential to have a significant positive impact on both the US economy as a whole and the commercial casino sector in particular..."

"We believe that we are at the dawn of a national internet gambling movement in the United States that will generate substantial revenues for states and territories that embrace this new economic reality," Golden said.

The US Virgin Islands is poised to be an internet gambling industry leader because of the governor's vision and trust that the implementation of internet gaming and internet gambling in the USVI, when properly regulated, will be a significant boost to the US Virgin Islands economy, Golden stated.

"The Virgin Islands is open for business and the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission will begin to implement the act immediately," deJongh and Golden said on Wednesday.

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