Virgin Islands Could Become Online Gambling Hub

The US Virgin Islands are a popular vacation spot for tourists. Known for their warm weather and spectacular beaches American tourists can go to the islands without a passport. Thanks to a recent ruling by the island’s attorney general the US Virgin Islands could be home to a new industry; online gambling. Attorney General Vincent Frazer issued an opinion that said that the island’s 2001 gambling law allowed internet gambling companies would not conflict with federal internet gambling laws. Until recently the Virgin Islands had not allowed internet gambling companies to operate in the territory because of warnings from the federal government.

Currently the law only allows two companies to operate as “master service providers” effectively shutting out potential competitors. One of the companies reported that it had lost most of their investors during the twelve years since the law was passed due to uncertainty about the American online gaming market. If the two companies are allowed to offer internet gambling services worldwide it could have a huge impact on the island’s economy. Nick Pourzal of USVI Host, one of the two companies that will offer online gambling, said that if both companies are allowed to operate it could contribute as much as %30 million annually to territory’s General Fund. Frazer’s opinion contained several warnings. He pointed out that the Justice Department has changed its opinion several times over the years and that federal legislation could change the game quickly. He cited the ill advised Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act which was passed in (UIGEA) in 2006. Frazer wrote “I opine that the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Gambling Act is legal on its face. However, caution should be the rule because the pitfalls are in the implementation of the law.”

Frazier remains concerned about the possible effects of any federal laws and wrote “There is concern whether the use of the V.I.’s Internet gaming and gambling platform may be used by persons outside of the Virgin Islands and not run afoul of the federal law.” The Casino Control Commission said that the opinion was a step towards turning the territory into a hub for internet gambling. Commission’s Acting Chairwoman, Violet Ann Golden, said the Virgin Islands are working on agreements with states like New Jersey that have legalized internet gambling to form partnerships to regulate off island play on their websites. So far neither company has announced what games they will offer. Poker is a certainty but other casino games and internet bingo have not been mentioned.