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Casino opponents sue to stop gaming at Islandia hotel

The Islandia Marriott Hotel is shown on Thursday,

The Islandia Marriott Hotel is shown on Thursday, June 23, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Opponents of a Suffolk OTB video lottery casino in Islandia filed a state lawsuit Wednesday seeking to overturn the village’s approval of the project.

The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead by a coalition of Islandia residents and Hauppauge and Ronkonkoma civic groups, argues that the Islandia Village Board’s vote last month was invalid because it did not have a written resolution and failed to seek data about the casino’s potential impact on traffic, said Paul Sabatino, the Huntington Station attorney who represents the plaintiffs.

“They voted on nothing. They voted on a blank piece of paper,” Sabatino said in a telephone interview. “It’s like a phantom vote on a phantom document on a phantom permit for a phantom casino.”

Sabatino said the suit names the village and Delaware North, the Buffalo company developing the casino for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., as defendants. Suffolk OTB is not a defendant, Sabatino said.

Delaware North, which completed its purchase of the hotel in late August, plans to lease space to Suffolk OTB for the casino. OTB officials have said they expect to open the facility in the hotel by the end of the year.

Islandia Village Attorney Joseph Prokop said in an email that “the village has yet to receive the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment.”

Suffolk OTB President Phil Nolan declined to comment.

A statement released Wednesday by Delaware North officials did not directly address the lawsuit, but said the betting parlor “will bring significant economic benefits to Suffolk County and Islandia. ... We think the hotel in Islandia is a great location, and we plan to work with the village and nearby residents on any concerns with the facility’s aesthetics and operations going forward.”

The village board on Aug. 12 approved a special permit allowing 1,000 video lottery terminals as an accessory use at the Islandia Marriott Long Island hotel, on the North Service Road of the Long Island Expressway. Islandia Mayor Allan M. Dorman has said the permit would be reviewed every two years.

Islandia is to receive more than $2 million a year for the next two decades from Delaware North. Dorman has said the revenues would cut the village portion of Islandia residents’ property tax bills by up to half.

Sabatino said casinos typically are not considered accessory or “incidental” uses for hotels, and casinos are “explicitly” prohibited by the village zoning code.

Sabatino said the village board voted without asking state, county and Islip Town officials for studies of the casino’s potential impact on traffic. The Suffolk County Planning Commission on Aug. 3 said the village should review that information before voting.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is to invalidate the purported attempt by the village to enact this approval,” Sabatino said.

OTB officials have said the casino would help the financially ailing agency escape bankruptcy.

They also have said the county is guaranteed at least $2 million in revenue from the casino during its first full year of operation and $3 million in its second year. It could get more in those years if revenue exceeds certain levels. In the third through 10th year, the county gets $1 million a year, but otherwise profits go to creditors until they’re paid off.

Opponents, including some residents of Islandia and neighboring communities such as Ronkonkoma and Hauppauge, have said the gaming parlor would generate crime and traffic and lower property values.

Village residents who supported the casino said it would create jobs and lower taxes. Dorman has said Delaware North had agreed to improve security at the hotel.

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