The US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands are home to one of the world's biggest offshore economies. Attracted by favorable tax rules, companies pump over $1.5 trillion through the small British Virgin Islands alone. But the Virgin Islands are also home to casinos and a lucrative offshore gambling industry. Let's explore how gambling has taken hold in one of the most popular tax havens in the world.
Current Gambling Laws
The Virgin Islands consists of two groups of islands in the Caribbean: the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands (BVI). And despite being a third world country on paper, the BVI is home to hundreds of thousands of offshore companies, all enjoying lax tax rules.
BVI: The British Virgin Islands is a dependency of the UK. But in 2019, it doesn't enjoy the UK's relaxed laws on online gambling. Despite online gambling being technically illegal in the British Virgin Islands, there are plenty of companies based there who license their sites elsewhere.
US Virgin Islands: There is a more rigid legal framework for gambling on the neighboring US Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 was set up to regulate the casino industry on the islands. At the same time, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) was established to enforce the law.
Casinos who apply for licences on the USVI must have equipment and tables checked before they hit the casino floor. Jackpots over $25,000 must also be verified before they can be issued.
Online Gambling in the Virgin Islands
Online gambling is currently illegal in the British Virgin Islands, but that hasn't stopped some internet firms setting up businesses there. The BVI doesn't issue gaming licenses, and shows no sign of starting.
Similarly, the US Virgin Islands only has legalized land-based casino gambling. Some offshore casino websites will accept players from the two sets of islands, however.
Land-Based Casinos & Racetracks in US Virgin Islands
Currently, only the US Virgin Islands has brick ‘n mortar casinos. Casino properties are overseen by the Department of Gaming Enforcement. No legal casinos exist on the British Virgin Islands. However, the BVI does allow some charitable lottery action. For BVI residents, the nearest casinos are a hundred miles away in neigboring Puerto Rico.
Divi Carina Bay Resort & Casino
Saint Croix has the main concentration of casino resorts on the US Virgin Islands. Divi Carina Bay Casino forms part of a chain of casinos that also includes the Treasure Bay in Biloxi on the US mainland.
Divi Carina Bay has over 250 slot machines, as well as video poker and table games. Slots work on a ticket in/ticket out format, so you can move winnings easily from one machine to another. Table games at the casino include blackjack, roulette, and Mississippi Stud.
Casino at Hotel Caravelle
The casino at Hotel Caravelle is the only downtown gambling establishment in Christiansted. It was named Best Gaming Center in the Virgin Islands in 2017.
Caravelle Casino has classic and bonus video slots, as well as several progressive Lock It Link slots. The casino's Rewards Club gives loyal players bonuses like free slots play and accommodation.
The small Winner's Circle casino in St. Thomas has slots and a popular rum bar. The selection of progressive jackpots is dominated by 88 Fortunes, ShuffleMaster's Asian-themed jackpot slot.
The Parrot Club Casino
Situated in Cruz Bay, The Parrot Club has keno, video slots, poker and roulette. Electronic roulette is also available, plus Bally progressive slots like Quick Hit Platinum.
As well as casinos, St. Croix has several racetracks offering pari-mutuel betting. The Clinton E. Phipps racetrack is under renovation and is due to re-open soon.
New Gambling Legislation in 2020
For now, the US Virgin Islands are the only part of the islands that allow legalized gaming. There are no signs that the British Virgin Islands will follow suit any time soon. However, many offshore casinos and gambling sites will accept players based in the BVI.
That said, for years the BVI was home to some of the world's largest online gambling companies like 888, which was founds on the islands. Taking advantage of the relaxed tax rules, some internet casino sites registered as companies in the BVI. Gaming licenses were acquired in other jurisdictions.
In 2019, there are still a small number of online gaming firms with HQ in the British Virgin Islands. But there are no signs the country will fully regulate and legalize casino gaming as in the US Virgin Islands.