Long Island to get 2 video slot parlors

Walmart shoppers in Farmingdale react to the possibility of casinos coming to Long Island. Videojournalists: Jessica Rotkiewicz and Elise Apelain (June 19, 2013)

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ALBANY -- Long Island will get two new video-slot machine parlors -- even if a statewide referendum to allow casinos across New York fails this fall -- under a gambling-expansion agreement announced by lawmakers Wednesday.

The deal, reached at midnight Tuesday, is expected to be ratified by rank-and-file state legislators Friday. It would authorize four upstate casinos, but prohibit casinos on Long Island and in New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties for up to seven years. It would legalize sports betting in New York -- but only if federal laws limiting sports betting are changed.

To clear the way for casinos, a separate bill would amend the state constitution to allow up to seven non-Indian-run casinos in New York.

Voters would have to approve the amendment in a referendum this fall before any upstate casinos could be developed. If they do, it would clear the way for what is probably the largest single expansion of casinos in state history. New York already has five Indian-run casinos and nine "racinos" -- horse racing tracks that offer video slot machines.

No matter the fate of the casino vote, Nassau and Suffolk counties still would be able to open one video-slot facility apiece. Each would have a maximum of 1,000 of the machines, known as video lottery terminals or VLTs.

Off-track betting corporations in Nassau and Suffolk counties would operate the video slot machine centers, officials said. Nassau OTB has indicated its preferred location is its Race Palace in Plainview, a county official said. Nassau OTB officials didn't immediately comment.

Suffolk didn't immediately indicate a site preference.

If the referendum fails, Nassau could gain even more VLT parlors. The gambling bill authorizes a new "gaming commission" to site three more VLT parlors around the state -- potentially one more in Nassau.

"We believe there's a market for VLTs on the Nassau-Suffolk border," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news conference. He predicted the plan also would "establish world-class destination gaming resorts" upstate.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone hailed the agreement, saying he made a joint push with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to get the counties in on the deal.

"We have regional problems and I have been pleased to work closely with [Mangano] to seek regional solutions," Bellone said in a statement. "The only way for Long Island to get our fair share from the state is for our two counties to speak with one voice. We look forward to this legislation passing and to work hard to get a facility operational."

Mangano didn't immediately comment.

Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) sponsored the bills to allow Long Island to offer video slots.

"These VLTs represent a great win for Long Island," Boyle said. "It will keep Long Islanders on Long Island while bringing much needed revenue to our local governments."

An anti-gambling group blasted the deal, saying that the guarantee to add video slot machines, even if the casino vote loses, essentially takes away the public's ability to say "no" to gambling.

"The amendment was supposed to let voters say yes or no to expanded gambling in NY," the Coalition Against Gambling in New York said in a statement. "The governor's tactic will only let voters indicate what kind of expansion we must suffer. This is not democratic choice."

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