Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. announced plans Tuesday to build an electronic gambling parlor at state-run Belmont Park, ending months of speculation about where the casino will be located.
The county will lobby state lawmakers for approval to put a 100,000-square-foot video lottery parlor in the western grandstand.
OTB, which has been searching for a home for up to 1,000 VLTs for two years, said in a statement that, “after exhaustive study and review” including national gambling consultants, the agency determined Belmont Park in Elmont “is the best possible site” for VLTs.
“We are working with the county executive to ensure that Nassau County and the local communities receive increased benefits from this enhancement to a facility that has hosted horse race wagering for more than a century,” the agency said.
“The addition of VLTs and other first class amenities to existing gambling operations will enhance the entertainment experience for visitors to Belmont Park as well as producing revenue that will support vital public services that the county provides to its neediest residents,” OTB said.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who included $20 million in gambling revenue in his 2016 budget, said Tuesday he supports putting electronic gambling terminals at the 430-acre Belmont Park.
“Belmont Park is a logical selection as the existing gambling facility is underutilized,” Mangano said in a statement.
“The next step is to further discussions with local legislators and OTB to create a community benefits program that keeps property taxes down, invests in schools, addresses ingress and egress concerns while creating jobs and providing residents with a local entertainment option that keeps their dollars invested locally,” Mangano said.
However, some state and county lawmakers and village officials said the casino would increase crime, traffic, strain on public services and do little to improve the local economy.
State Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) said VLTs were “not a good fit for this community;” her brother, Nassau Legis. Carrié Solages, also an Elmont Democrat, said it “would destroy quality of life in the neighborhood.”
OTB said that as it awaits approvals, it will erect a temporary gambling hall on eight acres north of Hempstead Turnpike, between the grandstand and the Cross Island Parkway.
The structure would cost $10 million, take four to six months to build and could operate for up to 18 months, agency officials said. OTB would issue bonds to pay for the facility, which would include restaurants.
A permanent Belmont VLT parlor would cost about $75 million — likely funded through borrowing — and have about 30,000-square-feet of space for gambling. The remaining 70,000-square-feet would be occupied by restaurants, a food court, a simulcast area and offices.
OTB’s announcement comes nearly a year to the day after the agency announced plans to put VLTs at the vacant Fortunoff building in Westbury. OTB abandoned those plans after a month of intense political and community opposition.
Mangano and OTB President Joseph Cairo met last week with state and local officials to build support for placing VLTs at Belmont Park.
But Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy said OTB’s decision-making process has been “shrouded in secrecy.” The village board has hired Beveridge & Diamond, a Manhattan law firm, and plans to file a lawsuit to block the project, he said. “This decision is the product of a broken process,” Tweedy said.
Last week, Nassau Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) became the first lawmakers to publicly support the idea, noting Belmont already has gambling for horse racing.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) added her support Tuesday. She said Belmont “will provide an exciting entertainment destination” for Nassau residents and provide “economic benefit to our communities, taxpayers and small businesses, especially Floral Park and Elmont.”
JULY 2013: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signs legislation allowing Nassau and Suffolk counties to each build a gambling parlor with up to 1,000 video lottery terminals.
FEBRUARY 2014: Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. abandons plans to put VLTs at the Race Palace teletheater in Plainview because of local opposition and a lack of available space for parking.
APRIL 2014: Nassau OTB solicits commercial property owners who would be interested in selling their land to the agency to build a gaming parlor. A total of 19 property owners express interest.
DEC. 30, 2014: Nassau OTB announces that it has selected the vacant Fortunoff building on Old Country Road in Westbury for its proposed VLT parlor.
JAN. 15, 2015: More than 1,000 residents pack an elementary school in Westbury for a public meeting to voice their opposition to the plan. Three more protests are held in subsequent weeks.
JAN. 31: Nassau OTB abandons consideration of the Fortunoff site and says it will seek alternative locations.
DEC. 29: Nassau OTB announces plans to build its VLT parlor at Belmont Park.