ST. LUCIA – So, I managed to go four straight days in Las Vegas without playing a single hand of Blackjack, keeping intact my New Year’s resolution to not gamble in a casino. And what happens?
The day I arrive for a four-day press trip to St. Lucia, the island opens its first casino since it was discovered by Columbus.
Now, I could have easily stayed away, but I had to get a first-hand look at something I thought I’d never see on this Caribbean island. The Treasure Bay Casino has 257 slot machines (90 percent of which are penny slots), nine Blackjack tables, one Craps table, one Roulette table, 31 televisions in the bar and three poker tables in a private area. The casino is located in the Bay Walk mall in the heart of Rodney Bay, the area of the island with the most vibrant nightlife.
The temptation to sit down at the brand new, green felt Blackjack table — that hadn't yet seen a single spilled drink or a frustrated gambler's pounding fist — subsided quickly for two reasons: The “How to Play Blackjack" pamphlet to the left of the table, which alerted me to the fact that most of the people I would play with here would not be experts of the game (something that has cost me money in the past), and … the dealer was not yet on duty.
But I must say, the place looked very clean, very professional and, unfortunately for me and the locals of St. Lucia who are inexperienced in table games, very inviting.
The casino also has a handful of $1 minimum Blackjack tables, meaning you can gamble for hours without losing too much dough. I spoke to Jeff Prusinowski, vice president of gaming operations for Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel, about the casino. Prusinowski's company is based in Biloxi, Mississippi, and owns and manages several casinos in the Caribbean, in locations such as The Bahamas, Aruba and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Thirty-six nationals and 10 to 15 ex-pats work at the casino, all of whom went through 10 weeks of training prior to the opening, according to Prusinowski. Locals are allowed to gamble. Locals, as well as tourists, need to become a member of the casino in order to wager. To become a member, all you have to do is present your I.D. and sign a form.
I’ve been hearing about the possibility of St. Lucia opening a casino for some time now, but I honestly never thought the government would allow it. Prusinowski said the plan to open this casino first sprouted in 2004.
“I always say the Ministry of Tourism should be called the Ministry of Experience,” said Sen. Allen Chastanet, minister of tourism and civil aviation in St. Lucia, “because tourism is really about your experiences and adding a casino is just another way we can tailor visitors’ experience of St. Lucia. It’s just one more thing we can give them.”