Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp., facing lawsuits and opposition in Brookhaven, is seriously considering moving its planned 1,000-video slot machine casino from an already purchased site in Medford to a hotel in Islandia, town and county sources say.
Suffolk OTB officials, according to sources, are considering the move at the prodding of Delaware North, which is involved in managing and financing the project, and are in negotiations for the purchase of the 278-room Marriott Hotel, on the north service road of the Long Island Expressway between exits 57 and 58.
“It would give them a turnkey operation that could be ready in a matter of months,” said one local official familiar with the negotiations, who said that a deal could be struck within the next week or two.
What makes the potential relocation unusual is that OTB, still struggling to dig out of bankruptcy, spent $10.95 million to buy 31 acres near expressway exit 64 in Medford for the casino. But the town, which early on seemed interested in having a gaming facility, has cooled to the idea and raised objections to OTB’s site plan.
Philip Nolan, Suffolk OTB president, declined to comment on the possibility of a new casino site. Glen White, spokesman for Delaware North, said their company “is continuing to work with Suffolk County OTB to realize our shared goal of opening a video gaming facility. Beyond that, it is Delaware North’s policy to neither confirm nor deny rumors about our business plans and strategies.”
The price tag for the acquisition or the structure the transaction might take is unclear. An outright sale may be difficult for OTB, which is trying to climb out of bankruptcy. Delaware might buy the property and lease space to OTB, or could provide the betting agency with additional financing to complete the sale. The property is listed as being owned by Columbia Properties Islandia LLC in Mitchell, Kentucky. Columbia officials did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
In addition to the 278 rooms, the Marriott has a bar, a restaurant, a tennis court and a gym, as well as a banquet room and conference space totaling 12,000 square feet.
Both Nassau and Suffolk OTBs have faced local opposition to their site selections. Nassau OTB dropped plans for using the Race Palace in Plainview for lack of parking and the former Fortunoff’s Department store near Roosevelt Field because of vocal opposition. Most recently it faced an outcry from hundreds of residents about using Belmont Race Track for the casino.
While Islandia officials have clashed with the county over the loss of traffic fine revenues from its new traffic court, several sources say OTB officials have consulted with the village about the potential move. The sources say having a casino within village borders may allow the village to receive as much as $3 million a year for hosting the gaming facility. Village Mayor Allan Dorman did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he is unaware of a possible move from the Medford site and would be happy to see a combined casino for Nassau and Suffolk at Belmont.
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said town officials want the project to leave. “We’ve been against it because Medford is against it and because we’re all about quality of life,” he said. “We’re happy if town actions may be successful in preventing a casino.”