BVI News

Gov’t is misinforming the public — Thomas Family

With renewed calls for the government to revive horse racing in the territory, the Thomas family has stated that they aren’t responsible for the impasse that has brought the beloved sport to a halt.

Horse racing has been on pause for years now because the government has not been able to reach a new deal with the estate of Ellis Thomas – part owner of the Ellis Thomas Downs racetrack in Sea Cows Bay.
Premier Natalio Wheatley has stated that the impasse was reached because the Thomas family is demanding too much to rent the venue. But in an interview with a St. Thomas radio station, Elaine Thomas -Griffith, spokesperson for the Ellis family, said the government is trying to pay $0.31 per square ft to rent the land, when the land is actually valued between $9.00 and $64.00 per square ft.

Despite the reduced amount the government wants to pay, Thomas-Griffith said her family has always been willing to charge less than the venue is worth, as they aren’t trying to get rich off their deal with the government. 

But the attorney said the government has not made itself available for those negotiations, adding that she wants to set the record straight because of the public view that the government remains in negotiations with the Ellis family. 

“What I want people to understand is that the government has told them information that has no relation to the truth of what really went on here. We had given the government several years to come to the table to negotiate with us, but they chose not to. We presented our offer of $4 per square ft in August 2023 and I have not received a response to that letter to this day.”

She continued: “Although the Premier continues to say he’s in active negotiations with the family, that is absolutely not occurring. And since the prolific events that happened on race day in the USVI, we have moved even lower than $4.”

Thomas -Griffith said persons should note that the government was responsible for cancelling the contract with her family,  a move which has caused horse racing to pause in the BVI.

She explained that her family understands the value of horse racing in the BVI, but wants the government to understand that land in the BVI represents an opportunity for families to secure a legacy for generations.

“My father would gather us as adults and tell us that we are stewards of this land — we only get to serve as caretakers of the land for the economic opportunities it will present to us and the generations to come. If he could have sacrificed with less opportunities and less resources, then we who he sent to college can certainly sacrifice to place this land in the hands of the generations to come in a way that doesn’t add a curse to their lives. We will fight to make sure we honour that,” Thomas-Griffith said.


Copyright 2024 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.


Disclaimer: BVI News and its affiliated companies are not responsible for the content of comments posted or for anything arising out of use of the comments below or other interaction among the users.

  1. Liar, liar, liar says:

    Rents for the smartest offices in Road Town are about $40 per square foot. This is undeveloped agricultural land in sea cows bay.
    The Government should pull out of the negotiations and let them discover that nobody else is interested in renting it.
    We need to stop subsidising the horse owners. If they want to be to own and race horses, then let them pay for it themselves. It is not something that the Government should be paying for.

    Like 47
    Dislike 4
    • Get up you SOB Cause Mickey loves Yah says:

      Let’s see if Government is willing to undertake another route and if it can find the room to cover the switching costs . The family need so negotiation classes because either this is a heart project or a commercial one, Can’t be both

      Like 6
      Dislike 2
  2. Salty Fish says:

    Sorry – but from whom are these renewed calls for horseracing coming from? In general, this is a private sport, operated and run by a chosen few. It should not be a publicly funded sport, nor a taxpayer’s obligation.

    If indeed this is a profitable enterprise, why wouldn’t the Horse racing ‘powers that be’ enter into an agreement with the Thomas family directly and enjoy the profits? They won’t because they want the public to fund their hobby, and then profit off of it because they have no consequential costs to worry about.

    The reality is that while people may watch the horse races it is neither profitable, nor practical for a community of these size to keep it publicly funded.

    I do not believe that the majority of the electorate is for Government to be involved.

    Let the Horse Racing brokers negotiate with the Thomas’ and come to an accord that is mutually profitable to both. Then again, even the most basic minded businessman knows that there is no possibility of this happening because it is and likely always will be a losing enterprise!

    Like 52
  3. Ausar says:

    With all due respect, Mrs. Thomas-Griffith, instead of the usual stories of what the land is valued at, or not, why don’t you tell us, just exactly, what is the amount you and your family, have decided, what the government should pay, to own the property?

    THIS,is preety much, all what we need to know!

    Like 19
    Dislike 3
    • @Ausar says:

      She did just that. Listen to the full interview. It’s very enlightening with how deceptive our Premier is

      Like 10
      Dislike 4
  4. hmm says:

    Negotiate what!? its either take what the government been always paying or no horse race its that simple. The BVI has more important things to find money for than shelling out even more money for a horse track it shouldn’t be paying for in the first place.

    Like 24
    Dislike 1
    • @hmm says:

      would be even saying this if it was your property? neither would I. You all are too one-sided and that’s why this territory is where it is.

      Like 1
      Dislike 1
      • @@hmm says:

        The government purpose is not to take on senseless financial burdens just for the sake of being a cash cow for select private citizens… That’s why the territory is where it is.

  5. Parimutuel Betting says:

    If the Government will pass legislation that will allow parimutuel gambling and the likes of, this sport can be easily funded and operated by private individuals. As it stands, there are no benefits or profits of any private individuals or even the horse owners association negotiating to lease this land. The Premier just needs to tell the public that the Government can no longer afford to sustain a lease for the track (although it seems they can squander way more in other areas).

    Like 12
  6. Unnecessary says:

    There are horse race tracks in STT and STX so a track on Tortola is superfluous. Better to just raise race horses in the BVI then race them in the USVI. The BVI government should never be involved in the race horse raising or racing business.

    Like 10
    Dislike 1
  7. hmmm says:

    Thomas family being greedy for real and they know it. This article reeks of their desperation. They want $4 per foot for over six acres of land and when Gov’t done pay them over a million in rent, what they suppose to pay the other landowners who have more acres of land? All for an activity that does not profit the Gov’t in any way!

    Like 9
    Dislike 3
  8. ok says:

    Government needed to signed a 99 year least in the first place. We wont have beeen in this mess today……………

    Like 11
  9. Ellis Thomas Family says:

    I have an idea, tell the Premier the land is not for horse racing but instead you will through parties and a really big one for his birthday. Trust me it will work, proven track record.

    Like 12
    Dislike 3
  10. lol says:

    This a classic tale of want all gets none. If it’s not about money or getting rich off of the government then leave the rate where it’s been all the time.

  11. Grow food instead says:

    How about using the lovely flat land for agriculture – and the money for rent could be used to go towards providing the basic human right of water to Sea Cow’s Bay residents. Why on earth would the government pay for horse racing? How does that benefit the people of the BVI??

  12. Danny says:

    It’s a money thing. The family want money. Why can’t they follow the Shirley family who donated the recreation ground. Greed is the MOAFUS.

  13. Radio Rich says:

    So if it’s 6 acres for arguments sake, Elaine values it between $9-$64 per square foot. There are 261,360 square feet in 6 acres meaning in her strange little greedy world she values it between (to rent not buy!!!);

    $2,352,240 at the low end or;

    $16,727,040 at $64 per foot.

    Get a grip lady, you greedy, selfish, entitled so***pa**.

  14. WTF says:

    This is fine. I don’t pay taxes for horse racing.

  15. my2cents says:

    The family does not know how to negotiate. And as far as I’m concerned, the government is still in negotiations with the family. Their silent dismissal of the family’s counteroffer is a response to it. The gov offered the family a rate they deemed fair b/c it is not a commercially viable enterprise for the government. It is a labour of love, for our culture and traditions. Then the family made a counteroffer of almost 1300% more than the initial offer. Silence and no acknowledgement is the standard response to such an outrageous and ridiculous demand. Whoever is counseling this family is not doing them justice. They can’t even argue that the government is getting rich off of their land so they demand a fair share. The government is losing in the deal and they’re offering you a guaranteed profit while they take the loss. This is poor negotiation and eventually, like the greedy dog with the bone, you will lose the bone you have looking at a merage of the bone you want.

  16. Big Richard says:

    Government has been “misinforming” the public for 50 years

Leave a Comment