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Cranky ‘Usie’ Richards Chides Governor For Not Putting More People On Casino Control Commission

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — During Friday’s budget hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, acting CCC Chairman Raymond “Usie” Richards told lawmakers to talk to the governor about designating nominees for his commission.

Richards said the Division of Gaming Enforcement staff is depleted to a single person, making it impossible to keep up with its responsibilities.

The Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission’s acting chairman expressed his frustration over the lack of an administration appointed nominee for the director position of the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the position of Casino Control Commission chairman. 

Richards’ statements took place during Friday’s budget hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. As vice chairman of the commission, he assumed the role of acting chairman after former CCC Chairwoman Violet Ann Golden was indicted and later pled guilty to embezzling nearly $300,000 from the commission.

CRY BABY: CCC Chairman Raymond “Usie” Richards (middle) with CCC Executive Director Barbara James Petersen (left)

“The commission remains baffled by the administration’s failure to submit a nominee for the position of chairman of the V.I. Casino Control Commission, Richards said. “On July 1, 2019, more than a year ago, the formal notice was submitted to the administration giving notice of the former chairman’s retirement.”

He also said the Division of Gaming Enforcement director position has been left unfilled and, because the administration has not provided a nominee, the division’s staff is depleted to a single person, making it impossible to keep up with the division’s responsibilities.

“The depletion of DGE’s staff to just one person makes it impossible for the commission to timely process employee applications, ensure gaming machines are properly calibrated and the required background checks on major applications are thoroughly executed,” Richards argued.

The commission’s budget request of $823,000 from the General Fund for the fiscal year 2021 will cover the salaries of the 13 positions within the commission. This amount encompasses the salaries of the vacant positions that agency officials want to be filled. The two vacancies are important positions within the commission, Richards said, and he implored the committee to speak with the governor about designating nominees.

Though Richards has stepped into the void created by Golden’s resignation, the commission’s frustration with the administration was evident throughout his Friday testimony, citing communication as the problem. In addition to the lack of appointed nominees, he said that in December 2019 Commissioner Stacy Bourne submitted her resignation letter explaining that she could not complete her term due to personal reasons.

But “to date, no formal acknowledgment of the transmitted resignation has been received and the commissioner continues to serve to ensure the agency remains functional and that the casinos, their service entities and employees can continue to exist,” Richards said.

All committee members – Senators Janelle Sarauw, Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Oakland Benta, Allison DeGazon, Dwayne DeGraff and Donna Frett-Gregory — were present for the Finance Committee hearing.

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