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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Doing the VLT shuffle Nassau

A man uses a video lottery terminal on

A man uses a video lottery terminal on April 14 at Resorts World Casino New York City in Queens. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Let’s do the VLT shuffle.

It’s a game that’s left Nassau wanting for millions of dollars officials had assumed would flow from Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp. to the county’s budget.

Last year, the county and OTB signed off on a deal that would have OTB send Nassau millions of dollars in new and needed revenue once 1,000 video lottery terminals were installed in a Queens casino.

Nassau OTB earlier had won permission from the state to install 1,000 VLTs in the county. But that plan foundered after community opposition so vociferous that OTB officials decided it would be folly to attempt to locate an electronic gambling parlor anywhere in Nassau County.

With that, the OTB struck another deal.

It would have its complement of VLTs installed, all right, but at Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, in Queens, which is operated by Genting New York LLC.

Once those Nassau VLTs were installed in Queens, the county would benefit from anticipated revenues of at least $20 million annually.

But that bet ended up going awry.

Initially, officials said, the plan was to install 500 Nassau VLTs at Aqueduct, and then designate 500 existing machines as part of Nassau’s contingent.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, there was blowback because the Nassau machines — and this is simplifying a complicated process — generated less payout for horsemen than machines already operating at the casino. Most of the money from gamblers at state racetracks with VLTs goes to winners as prizes. The remainder is split among the tracks, the horsemen and the state.

With that, there was no conversion of the existing machines — and, for now, no more machines to bring Nassau to its full complement.

“We didn’t find all of this out until the county began asking questions,” Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state entity overseeing county finances, said in an interview Wednesday.

Michael Martino, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, said last week that the county had received about $3 million from Nassau OTB.

That’s far less than the $20 million Nassau had hoped to apply to 2018 and 2019 budgets.

Joseph Cairo, head of Nassau OTB — and the Nassau Republican Party — said he had explained the situation to county officials. In addition to the lack of Nassau machines and other factors, there was an issue with the county having a January-to-December fiscal year, while OTB’s spans April 1 of one year to March 31 of the next. That impacts the timing of payments to Nassau, Cairo said.

“Things turned out to be more complicated than we thought,” Cairo said in an interview.

As a result, Nassau — in the middle of its budget year — will be left scrambling to fill a budget hole.

But Cairo, county officials and Barsky say they are confident that ultimately, the funds will flow.

“The county, I know, is continuing conversations with OTB,” Barsky said. “As we move forward, that’s important.”

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