Casino commission digging credit hole

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Marvin Pickering listens to a question from a senator during Tuesday’s hearing. (Senate livestream screenshot)

Marvin Pickering, president and CEO of the VI Casino Control Commission, said the Commission suffered financially from the actions of the former chairman, whose actions led to a prison sentence.

Pickering said at Tuesday’s finance committee meeting, “Due to questionable dealings by a former chair, the Commission is required to reimburse the Youth Programs Fund a total of $39,878 wrongly spent from the fund. . In addition, the Commission also makes payments to Banco Popular on a credit card that was issued to the Commission with this same former president as an authorized user. The balance is $47,740, with an expected monthly payment of $1,141 deducted from the commission’s operating account.

Sen. Carla Joseph looks at the credit card total, and the expected payment says it could take “three or four years to pay off.”

Pickering said it could be even worse: “It’s a credit card. There is interest. »

Senator Donn Frett-Gregory asked why the commission hasn’t had an audit for the past few years. Pickering, again recalling recent Commission history, said: “The financial records were in disarray.” He added that now that there were two years of accurate information, an audit would be carried out in the next fiscal year.

Another part of the story has also harmed the Commission. It received funds from the Horse Racetrack Casino Revenue fund. However, this fund dried up in 2016 when Traxco ceased operations at the Randall “Doc” James racetrack. Ongoing litigation has suspended horse racing at tracks in both territories.

In his written testimony, Pickering said the General Fund request was for $995,700. However, he acknowledged that the total request would be closer to $1.4 million because the government was responsible for the Commission’s employee costs and the cost of benefits was not included in the first figure.

The application would fund fifteen employees, including three vacant positions. The vacancies are for a commissioner to fill the seat vacated in April by Usie Richards and two new positions: an in-house legal adviser and an IT support person.

Frett-Gregory said 20 years ago it was thought the Casino Commission would be self-governing at that time, but no new casinos came along, and none were on the horizon. She added that perhaps the system should change.

Sen. Kurt Vialet said some states are putting all gambling operations under one entity. (The Finance Committee had heard about Lottery VI earlier in the day.)

Pickering said this option “deserves careful consideration.”

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