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Group seeks voice in casino plan in Nassau

A blackjack dealer works on the Escapade, a

A blackjack dealer works on the Escapade, a luxury gambling vessel operated by Opus Casino Cruise Lines in Freeport. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin, 2010

Dozens of civic, religious and business leaders met at Hofstra University to demand a voice in upcoming plans to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum site -- plans that most feared will soon include a casino.

Richard Bivone, chairman of the new group -- the Nassau Coliseum Redevelopment Campaign -- said most of the 60 people who attended a Monday night meeting opposed the county's casino plans. Hofstra University, which has been a vocal opponent of a casino near its campus, hosted the meeting.

"The majority of people were concerned about having a casino," said Bivone, Nassau chairman of the Long Island Business Council. Others promoted the idea of endorsing Suffolk County and Belmont Park racetrack as alternate locations.

Nassau County is said to be close to reaching a memorandum of understanding with the Shinnecock Indian Nation to pursue developing a casino on 30 to 50 acres adjacent to the Coliseum. A spokesman for the county has declined to comment on any pending announcement.

"We don't have a site in Nassau, Suffolk or anywhere," tribal spokeswoman Beverly Jensen said. "Until we say we have one, we don't have one."

Bivone said the new group will send a letter to Shinnecock leaders requesting a meeting and emphasizing "we have the utmost respect for them. This is about a casino and having balance in our community."

The group also will request a meeting with County Executive Edward Mangano to demand that "before they make any decision on a memorandum with the tribe that they meet stakeholders so we can express our concern that the property gets developed with balance."

Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall Sr., who attended the Hofstra meeting, said the village "already has that negative reputation and here is where they would try to set up shop?" He added that the village board would introduce a resolution opposing the project.

Not everyone at the meeting was opposed to a casino, and some were hopeful about luring it to Elmont, at the Belmont Park raceway.

"There were a number of us in favor of a casino being at Belmont Park," said Julie Marchesella, vice president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce and treasurer of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development. She noted the raceway is state-owned, has ample parking and roadway access, and contains plenty of room for development. "It would be a tremendous boon to Elmont."

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has been a proponent of incorporating a casino into Belmont, but Assemb. Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), has opposed it.

With Aisha Al-Muslim

@markharrington

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