Nassau, Suffolk begin search for slot machine locations
Nassau and Suffolk counties are working to secure locations and operators for about 2,000 slot machines -- the first on Long Island.
Officials say they expect at least one of two Las Vegas-style slot machine parlors to open in the coming year with electronic gaming machines, restaurants and bars.
State lawmakers in June approved a deal allowing Nassau and Suffolk to each operate 1,000 "video lottery terminals," or "VLTs," as a way of generating money. Since then, the presidents of Nassau's and Suffolk's Off-Track Betting corporations have been meeting with officials from the state gaming commission, looking into prospective venues and determining who will operate the parlors.
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"This thing is on a very fast track, as fast a track as I can grease," said Phil Nolan, president of Suffolk OTB.
But opposition has already surfaced about one potential location as officials consider sites for the parlors and at least 1,000 parking spots each.
Timetables for opening
Suffolk, which is facing a $180 million budget deficit next year, anticipates opening its facility by September and is already accounting for $4 million in expected revenue in next year's budget, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Nassau's timetable is geared toward "realistically" opening in 2015, Nassau OTB president Joseph Cairo said. "I want to open as fast as we can, but we want to make sure we do it the right way," he said.
Nassau estimates the county will generate $19 million from slots in 2015, said Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano. The county is facing a $122 million budget shortfall in 2014, according to projections by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state board that oversees Nassau's finances.
In November, Suffolk selected Buffalo-based operator Delaware North to run its VLT parlor. Nolan went to Buffalo last week to continue negotiating a contract with the $2.6 billion company, which runs several upstate casinos. Nolan said he hopes a contract will be completed in the next few weeks.
Delaware North has committed $65 million to $70 million for construction of an 80,000-square-foot casino that will feature restaurants, bars, a horse-betting area and parking for as many as 1,500 vehicles.
The facilities will have the look of traditional casinos, but without table games such as blackjack and craps. In November, voters approved a state constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling, including seven full-scale casinos for upstate New York.
The gaming commission will control the terminals while the OTB will oversee casino operations.
OTB officials said they are looking at sites in western Suffolk along the Long Island Expressway, Route 110 and Veterans Memorial Highway.
Delaware North spokesman Glen White said it's "too early" to provide a time frame for site selection. The company and OTB officials have narrowed their choices "to six or seven sites" that he declined to identify.
Opposition to Plainview
The Race Palace in Plainview has been touted as a contender to house Nassau's parlor. But its limited parking capacity and opposition from Plainview-Old Bethpage leaders is being taken into consideration, Cairo said.
"I have a bit of a concern where the Race Palace is because it's right on the Suffolk County line," Cairo said. "Obviously, I'd rather be somewhere where we're not in direct competition with Suffolk. Together with the concerns of the Plainview community, it's stuff we're looking at."
Plainview-Old Bethpage residents have started collecting signatures on a petition opposing the casino at Race Palace and speaking in opposition at county legislature meetings.
"Why would you want to put this in a residential area?" asked Ginger Lieberman, president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education. "You'll impact traffic. You'll have a lot of people coming into the community that you don't know. . . . There is tremendous concern about our schoolchildren."
The only other OTB-operated slots parlor in the state is Batavia Downs in upstate Batavia. That facility is operated by the Western Regional OTB, which is owned by 15 counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo. The state's other eight parlors are operated by private companies.
In 2005, Batavia Downs was granted state approval to run 786 slot machines, and since has seen its revenue nearly double, Ryan Hasenauer, spokesman for Western Regional OTB, said.
Customers last year spent $547 million playing slots at Batavia Downs, up from $291 million in 2006, Hasenauer said. Under Western Regional's agreement with the state, 51 percent of those proceeds were directed to the state's lottery fund, geared toward educational scholarships. The other 49 percent belongs to the OTB which, after paying for operations-related costs such as facility maintenance and marketing, splits the money among the 15 counties and two cities.
After paying its state portion last year, Western OTB collected $45 million in profits, up from $24 million in 2006, Hasenauer said.
Video lottery terminals
Video Lottery Terminals -- often called "VLTs" -- are slot machines that allow a user to bet on the outcome of a video game. Unlike traditional Las Vegas-style slot machines, VLTs are controlled by a centralized computer system that generates a predetermined number of winners. Players are competing with other VLT users for a prize, compared with traditional slot machines in which the game's outcome is independent of other machines.
Source: New York State Gaming Commission