Nassau OTB picks Belmont Park for video casino

Nassau OTB picks Belmont Park for video casino

After recent protests from local officials and community leaders, Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting officially announced Dec. 29 its plans to put a video casino at Belmont Park.

“The addition of VLTs (video lottery terminals) and other first class amenities to existing gaming operations will enhance the entertainment experience for visitors to Belmont Park as well as producing revenue that will support vital public services that the county provides to its neediest residents,” the agency said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Nassau OTB plans to put 1,000 VLTs at a temporary parlor in the parking lot north of the grandstand at the Elmont racetrack. It will take about six months to build and could operate for 18 months, OTB spokesman David Chauvin said.

The agency consulted “nationally recognized gaming consultants” in its “exhaustive” decision-making process, its statement said.

Its next step is to seek approval for the temporary parlor from either the state Office of General Services or the New York Racing Authority, Chauvin said.

Newsday reported the county will seek permission for a full 100,000-square-foot casino in 2016; Chauvin said he could not confirm that.

OTB has sought a location for the parlor since 2013, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorized temporary sites in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Its plans to put the casino at a former Fortunoff jewelry store in Westbury, announced about a year ago, were abandoned following outcry from town and village officials and community leaders.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who included $20 million in VLT revenue in his 2016 county budget, called Belmont Park a “logical” location.

“The next step is to further discussions with local legislators and OTB to create a community benefits program that keeps property taxes down, invests in schools, addresses ingress and egress concerns while creating jobs and providing residents with a local entertainment option that keeps their dollars invested locally,” Mangano said in a statement.

OTB projects the VLT parlor would generate $200 million over 20 years and create 200 permanent jobs, Chauvin said.

The agency’s announcement comes about a week after dozens of Floral Park residents, including Mayor Thomas Tweedy, protested plans for a Belmont Park casino at a county Legislature meeting.

They and other opponents say the casino would increase crime and traffic in the area and put extra strain on resources in the village, which borders the racetrack.

The Floral Park-Bellerose school board, along with civic groups and local lawmakers in Floral Park and Elmont, have made similar protests in recent weeks. 

State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D- and Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages (D-Elmont), who represent Elmont and parts of Floral Park, have said they opposed the idea.

Tweedy also sent a letter last week to OTB Chairman Joe Cairo, with whom Floral Park village officials had met over the summer. to make their opposition clear.

In an interview Tuesday, he said it was a tough day for Floral Park, as OTB’s announcement coincides with Monday’s death of village Deputy Mayor James Rhatigan.

“This is the product of a broken process,” Tweedy said, also calling OTB is an “autonomous, clandestine organization.” 

“If this were a good idea, our elected representatives would not be running from this idea. They’d be embracing it,” he said.

Floral Park’s Republican county legislators, Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and Vincent Muscarella, have publicly supported the casino, saying it will capture much-needed revenue for the county.

Nicolello could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. 

But at the Legislature’s Dec. 21 meeting, he said OTB projects the parlor would see an average of 5,000 visitors a day, significantly lower than Floral Park officials’ estimates.

In its statement, OTB said it is working with Mangano to ensure the county and Belmont’s surrounding communities “receive increased benefits from this enhancement to a facility that has hosted horse race wagering for more than a century.”

The casino still faces hurdles, Tweedy said in his letter to Cairo, including a state law prohibiting VLTs at Belmont and “thorough and complete review” under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Floral Park has hired the Manhattan law firm Beveridge & Diamond to represent the village in case it decides to contest the casino project in court.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here