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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Rep. Kathleen Rice oppose Belmont VLT casino

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks in East Meadow on

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks in East Meadow on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Opposition to a video gambling parlor at Belmont Park intensified Tuesday as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Rep. Kathleen Rice announced their opposition to the plan.

Heastie (D-Bronx) is against the project because of opposition by Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), a Heastie spokesman said. The Assembly would have to approve the project because it would be built on state land at Belmont.

Rice (D-Garden City), who represents Floral Park, where village officials have threatened to sue to block the video slots parlor, said the project “is not in the community’s best interests.”

“This decision-making process lacked transparency and failed to include any input from residents, giving them all the more reason to feel that this facility is being forced into their backyards by people who won’t have to live with the consequences,” Rice said.

Rice said any community benefits from the plan “seem like an afterthought” and that VLTs will increase crime, traffic and demand for public services.

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. said in a statement that the county will receive $20 million to $30 million annually from the VLTs while the state will provide $2 million to $3 million annually to local municipalities “to be spent directly in those communities surrounding the site.”

The announcements Tuesday represented the latest twist in OTB’s longtime effort to build a casino with up to 1,000 video lottery terminals.

Last January, OTB abandoned plans to install VLTs at the vacant Fortunoff building in Westbury after intense political and community opposition.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who supports the Belmont project, has said he plans to lobby state lawmakers to approve the project. Plans call for construction of a 100,000-square-foot VLT parlor in the western grandstand that would cost about $75 million.

Mangano declined to comment Tuesday on the opposition.

Assemb. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon), chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, which must approve Belmont VLTs, said Nassau’s plan could hurt business at Resorts World Casino — located 10 miles away at Aqueduct Racetrack — and reduce the casino’s contributions to the State Education Fund.

Former Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of federal corruption charges in November, had expressed similar concerns about putting VLTs at Belmont.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Pretlow said of Belmont slots. Pretlow sponsored the 2013 bill that allowed Nassau and Suffolk to get VLTs and permitted four upstate casinos.

Michael Wilton, executive director of the New York Gaming Association, an Albany-based lobbying group representing the state’s nine VLT parlors, said putting slots at Belmont “will just cannibalize gambling dollars and threaten existing jobs.”

State Sen. John Bonacic (R-Middletown), chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said he will “review the specifics of the proposal and hear from stakeholders.”

Community opponents will host a rally Jan. 12 at Floral Park High School. An online petition to block the casino plan has more than 1,400 signatures and an opposition Facebook group has 1,600 members.

“We are going to put a stop to this unacceptable idea,” said Nadia Holubnyczyj-Ortiz, a Floral Park resident and one of the organizers of the opposition campaign.

As the casino awaits state approvals, OTB plans to erect a temporary gambling hall on 8 acres north of Hempstead Turnpike. The facility, which needs approval from the state Gaming Commission and the Office of General Services, would cost $10 million, take four to six months to build and could operate for up to 18 months.

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