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Cairo sees job at OTB to grow revenues for Nassau

The Republican nominee for president of Nassau's Off-Track Betting agency sees his job as a "challenge" to grow revenues for the county.

Joseph Cairo, vice chairman of the Nassau Republican Party and second-in-command to chairman Joseph Mondello, also said he did not see his 1994 disbarment as disqualifying him from serving in the job that pays $198,000 a year because he has since regained his law license.

But Democrats now controlling Nassau Downs have asked a State Supreme Court justice in Schenectady to issue an injunction Thursday to prevent Cairo from taking the job until the state Racing and Wagering Board has done a background check on him.

They also want to delay a new Republican-appointed board of directors from taking charge until reviewed and approved by the Democratic-controlled racing board based in Schenectady.

After Republicans took control of the county in January, GOP legislators approved a new three-member OTB board of directors, who all have strong ties to Mondello.

On Tuesday, the new directors said they were replacing Democratic OTB president Dino Amoroso with Cairo.

The longtime North Valley Stream Republican leader was disbarred in 1994 for diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars in client funds to his own use. Although most attorneys who divert funds are prosecuted, then-Republican District Attorney Denis Dillon said there was no criminal intent and that Cairo planned to repay the money.

"That was in the past," Cairo said of his disbarment. "I was reinstated in 2007 and that's a very extensive process." He said he is not familiar with the review done by the state racing board, but "I wouldn't anticipate any concerns."

However, Democrat Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) said, "The best people to judge his qualifications would be his victims."

Although some Republicans have complained that Democrats filled OTB with patronage employees, Cairo said, "I have no idea who the people are. That has to be looked at." He said he'd run OTB like a business and would "return to the old days when it received significant money for the county."

Amoroso, however, pointed out that Nassau OTB turned over $5.3 million to the county in 2009. And, while racing and wagering has dropped across the nation and the state, he noted that "Nassau has declined less than every other OTB in the state."

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