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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

For troubled Nassau, Suffolk OTBs it’s business as usual

What’s the difference between Long Island’s Off-Track Betting Corporations and a chowder of cats?

Not much, apparently.

Because both sure know how to hang on for dear life.

Last month, an attorney for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting’s OTB told a judge in Brooklyn that plans for a new video lottery casino were moving right along.

So much so, that a casino at the Islandia Marriott Long Island on the Long Island Expressway’s North Service Road was expected to open in December.

Suffolk’s OTB, by the way, is in bankruptcy.

And rather than withering away under the mountain of debt it owes multiple creditors — while at the same time losing money because of declining revenues from horse-racing — Suffolk’s OTB is clawing, um, clinging, to the hope that video gambling will be enough to keep the corporation going.

The Village of Islandia is hoping for VLT success too. Actually, the village is counting on it — literally.

During a recent public hearing on the village’s proposed 2017 budget, Mayor Allan Dorman said that the average household would see a 25 percent cut in taxes — a cut of some $200, despite increased spending.

The cut, he said, was made possible by revenues generated as a result of a deal with Delaware North, a company which bought the hotel in anticipation of leasing space to OTB for 1,000 VLTs. Over time, Dorman said, village taxes could end up being cut in half.

That is, if the casino — and by extension Suffolk’s OTB — succeeds after emerging from bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Suffolk OTB’s top two officials will be sitting pretty through January 2020 — no matter what happens with the casino. That’s because the OTB board, in September, approved an agreement to keep President Phil Nolan and Vice President Anthony Pancella III employed through that time. The long-term employment agreement is the first for the organization since it formed in 1975, OTB officials told Newsday.

Which makes the move nimble, indeed.

Meanwhile, over at Nassau’s Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., which, like Suffolk’s, is struggling mightily to hang on, officials are looking to trim expenses with another round of early retirement incentives. The goal is to shed a fourth of its 193 employees — and save up to $2.5 million amid revenues that, also like Suffolk, are declining because fewer customers are showing up to wager on horse races.

It will be the second early retirement incentive in two years — even as the struggling agency pins hopes for its future on a deal cut earlier this year that transferred the OTB’s authority to operate 1,000 VLT’s over to Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct in Queens. That agile move was in response to overwhelming community opposition to placing a VLT gambling parlor in Nassau.

But the OTB is doing more than offering incentives in attempting to stay in business. In recent months, the OTB sold one branch building, refinanced a second and also is considering cutting weekday hours at less busy ones.

Even with all of this, Nassau is counting on OTB’s renewal to gift the fiscally struggling county with another revenue source.

Could that, as in Islandia, include some future tax cut?

Not to be catty — but don’t count on it.

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