Suffolk OTB wants to be the lead agency on the environmental review of its planned video lottery terminal casino in Medford, one of the remaining hurdles before it can start construction.
This would be the first time the horse wagering operation would oversee a project under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, said Anthony Pancella III, vice president of the Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
Under state law, the lead agency determines whether a project will have a "significant adverse impact" on the environment. Suffolk OTB bought 31 acres that once housed a multiplex movie theater last year for $10.95 million to build the gambling parlor with 1,000 video slot machines. The building would have a floor area of 90,000 square feet and parking for 1,321 vehicles.
The Suffolk OTB sent a letter on June 15 to the Suffolk Health Department, state Department of Environmental Quality, state Department of Transportation and state Gaming Commission. The agencies have 30 days to respond or OTB will assume lead agency status, according to the letter.
Opponents of the betting parlor questioned the OTB's qualifications to oversee the review.
"It's something they've never done before. They have no expertise in the area," said county Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), whose district includes the planned casino site. "I doubt it would get the true review process the project deserves."
Pancella said an engineering firm will do the technical work.
"There's a very well-defined standard of what you have to do. The engineering firm will be doing it to that standard," he said.
Suffolk OTB could start construction on the project this fall once the environmental report is completed, he said.
Calarco said Brookhaven Town should be the lead agency in the environmental process. Brookhaven did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Groups near the proposed casino have sued to stop the project.
The state Gaming Commission "has no concerns with Suffolk OTB being the lead agency for environmental review," said Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park.
Park said the project still needs "written confirmation from appropriate local officials" that the VLT facility complies with town ordinances.
OTB will pay engineering firm Nelson & Pope of Melville $95,000 for the consulting work.