By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Having only just recently come under new leadership, the Virgin Islands Horse Owners Association has made fresh calls for laws on parimutuel betting, gaming, and a national lottery to be enacted in the British Virgin Islands.
Association President Lesmore Smith told BVI News the need for these laws has become more important given the territory’s financial challenges.
He said legislating parimutuel betting (betting on horses) could be used to assist in rebuilding the AO Shirley Recreational Grounds while still remaining lucrative for the future.
He said such gaming laws would attract more investors. Smith further said, with parimutuel betting, operators of the horseracing track in Sea Cow’s Bay would not have to rely on donations and ticket sales to operate.
Smith also said he foresees parimutuel betting and having slot machines as a way to lure a new niche of tourists to the territory.
“If it’s regulated, the government can tax them and we do need revenue in these trying times. So in the rebuilding of the track, we are looking at a [betting] area where we could have all of these facilities directly on the track itself,” he said.
He said the association has been pushing for such gaming legislation since the days of Chief Minister Ralph O’Neal.
In 2017 minister responsible for sports Myron Walwyn called for a referendum on parimutuel betting. Those calls were made amid news that an investor wanted to pump $20 million into the Sea Cows Bay-based horseracing track.
On the matter of a national lottery, Walwyn had said persons in the territory are already purchasing lotteries from other countries — a phenomenon which has resulted in the BVI losing potential revenue.
Public’s help needed to rebuild horseracing track
Meanwhile, the Horse Owners Association is soliciting assistance from the general public as it rebuilds the hurricane-ravaged horseracing track.
Smith said restoring the track would require at least half-a-million dollars.
“We are still asking for the public’s help in support [and] donations to continue the rebuilding of the track. The effort of everyone is needed in order to make this a reality,” he said.
He apologised for the Association’s inability to host the August Tuesday races this year. The highly-anticipated races were not held because of challenges in shipping the required race horses from abroad.
“We will continue the process to ensure that we get races as soon as practicable so everyone can come out and enjoy themselves,” Smith said.
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