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US Virgin Islands Internet Gaming Act Legal, Says Attorney General

The year 2013 has seen some major steps being taken in parts of the US to legalise and regulate online poker.

Up to now, the US states of Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have passed legislation allowing online gambling in their jurisdictions, and online poker companies have launched in Nevada since then. Real-money online gambling sites will launch in both the other states before the end of the year, with most of the behind the scenes work now in its late stages.

Those three US jurisdictions may soon have a fourth joining its ranks, with the government of the US Virgin Islands officially giving the green light to regulating online gaming, according to Cardplayer.com. The announcement could pave the way for online poker and gaming sites to be launched on the islands, although that is yet to be determined.

Government representatives of the US Virgin Islands said that they hoped the creation of an online gaming industry within their borders would help boost their economy and compliment other already existing industries.

“At a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis, the implementation of Internet Gaming and Gambling will attract gaming related technology companies to the territory, creating new jobs, while transforming St. Croix and the Virgin Islands into a gaming leader in the Caribbean,” a press release said.

The US Virgin Islands had actually passed legislation in its parliament permitting online poker as well as other forms of gaming back in 2001. Known as the Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act, the legislation laid dormant due to a 2004 letter written by then U.S. Attoney to the Virgin Islands, David Nissman.  

The letter stated that the act contravened federal law, which “prohibited all forms of Internet gambling.” However, the US territory’s current Attorney General, Vincent Frazer, has said that the Act is legal, which essentially gives the government the green light to enforce it if it wishes.

While an online gaming industry gives the islands another potential avenue for revenue, there is the potential that any such industry on the US Virgin Islands may be quite small in size. Should US Virgin Islands-based gaming companies only be allowed to operate within the territory’s borders – as is the case in the three aforementioned states – they will find it hard to attract large amounts of players.

The islands have a population of only around 107,000 people, a small number for any online gaming company to work with. The islands do attract hordes of tourists, however, with around 2 million people visiting the US Virgin Islands every year. Online gaming companies would likely have to market their services to those vacationers if they are to achieve major success in the territory’s market.

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