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Ed Mangano, Joseph Cairo look to build support for Belmont VLTs

Lisa Oldendorp shows her discontent as Floral Park

Lisa Oldendorp shows her discontent as Floral Park Mayor Thomas J. Tweedy speaks out against the proposed VLT terminals at Belmont race track during the Nassau County Legislature meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. president Joseph Cairo met Monday with state and local officials as they worked to build support for a video gambling parlor at Belmont Park.

The meeting is the first official sign that Mangano and OTB are moving forward with the long-rumored Belmont video gambling plan.

Cairo and Mangano met with Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) and Democratic staffers to discuss the idea, which would be implemented in two phases.

A temporary facility with 1,000 video lottery terminals would go in a lot north of Hempstead Turnpike between the grandstand and the Cross Island Parkway and take 4-6 months to erect. A plan to put a 100,000-square-foot VLT parlor in the western portion of the grandstand would require state legislative approval.

“We look forward to discussions with the community about the benefits of this extraordinary opportunity,” OTB said in a statement.

Mangano, who has yet to publicly comment on the plan, declined an interview. Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the meeting “provided OTB an opportunity to discuss . . . the community benefits associated with VLTs.”

Mangano, who is counting on $20 million in annual gambling revenue to balance his 2016 budget, has said OTB would disclose the location of the parlor this month.

Nicolello and Muscarella became the first two elected officials to publicly support the idea, noting Belmont already serves as a gambling hub for horse racing. Nicolello said Belmont “is the most appropriate place to put it in Nassau.” Muscarella said “I do not think this idea is inappropriate.”

But Solages remains opposed to VLTs at Belmont. “If it’s not good enough for other communities, it’s not good enough for this community,” said Solages, noting OTB backed down from putting VLTs at the vacant Fortunoff building in Westbury after local opposition.

Meanwhile, three dozen Floral Park residents attended Monday’s county legislative meeting to oppose the plan, citing concerns about traffic and crime.

Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy said residents “are tired of playing Russian roulette with a gun held by OTB, hoping somehow that OTB’s gun goes off in some other community and ruins their neighborhood instead of their own.”

Pat Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association, supports the idea. “The ludicrous arguments against gambling at a racetrack is similar to arguing against prayer in a church,” he said to boos.

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