BVI News

Fresh calls | Parimutuel betting laws needed more than ever

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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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  1. Jane says:

    Please no gambling. It is a scourge on society with no benefit but to line the pockets of the book-makers. This would not be a progressive step for BVI.

    There are more ways for the horse track to make money: organise weekly races for the cruise-shippers – offer races and a cultural food village at the track. This is what they do in Malta and it is a great success for that small island. Lots of tourists dont want to go to the beach or want to stay out of the sun.

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    • Laura says:

      I agree with Jane to an extent in terms of
      offering days to the attract the tourist BUT
      the racetrack needs to benefit too in order to keep the track open.

      Pari-mutuel betting is a great way of getting people to come back to the racetrack because people that will stay will probably want to win and by wagering it gets them more engaged with the sport.

      Pari-mutuel betting doesn’t have to be all about gambling but it does mean the odds aren’t fixed; they can fluctuate right up to the race, depending on all the other bets that are coming in. Fixed-odds betting is more like gambling on other sports. You get to keep the odds you saw when you placed the bet, just like a point spread. This can only be a positive for the racetrack, as we know its struggling right now.

      We need to start thinking outside the box if the BVI is to rise from the ashes.

  2. Eagle eye says:

    They always saying the youths are the future but still building back the horse racing track before the AO Shirley Recreational Grounds.codda fool me.

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  3. Question please says:

    I am trying to understand Mr. Smith. It will need about 1/2 Million Dollars to repair the track incl. benches, stables, Restaurant and much more to be able to hold races. Yet he says it was lack of getting horses to the BVI. Where exactly would they race if everything is damaged? I am not a race fan, but I love horses and if I had one I surely would not want its live at risk, if the track isn’t 100% safe

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    • Great agricultural land or sports field says:

      The treatment of horses is so dire one wonders is racing is front. Legal betting would aid large cash transactions. In several races leading up to Irma a horse had to be killed as a result of the poor track. After Irma the horses were abandoned. The best thing the Government can do is turn this land over to sports, education or agriculture.

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      • Agriculture? says:

        Does this land really belong to Gov’t or isn’t only leased from the Ellis Thomas Estate. They should have a say, what to do with the track

  4. duck1951 says:

    Be careful what you ask for. the only true beneficiaries are the providers , not the public !

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  5. Speed Racer says:

    Turn the track into a track for short track car racing. The stands would be full every race.

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  6. Gerance P. says:

    Gambling and betting and using animals towards that end concerns me…. a lot.. But…… responsible casino type establishments drives a LOT of business, employment, investment and definitely tourism. People in the US and the Brits love it. It’s a big pill to swallow but it would bring massive amounts of needed cash to our islands. And fast. EVERY local industry would benefit. But it needs to look good and the staff would need to smile and cater to the tourists. The track area could be a revitalized money making center we could all benefit from. Without the need for horses.

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