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Nassau OTB begins public outreach for casino plan

The long closed Fortunoff store at the Source

The long closed Fortunoff store at the Source Mall in Westbury on Dec. 30, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. on Tuesday kicked off its first public effort to address concerns about a proposed gambling parlor in Westbury with a four-page mailer to residents detailing plans for security and traffic control.

The mailer to 21,500 home and business owners in Westbury and Carle Place is OTB's most extensive explanation of the project since announcing last month that it had selected the Old Country Road property in The Source mall to house up to 1,000 video lottery terminals.

The mailer, titled "Direct Questions - Straight Answers," said a "great deal of misinformation has circulated" about the mini-casino, including concerns about its size and expected clientele.

OTB said it has commissioned a study to determine the number of anticipated daily visitors to the VLT parlor. Officials said they expect patrons will come largely from Nassau and western Suffolk, with the majority between the ages of 50 and 64.

OTB will conduct a traffic impact study as part of a required environmental review. The analysis will compare projected traffic levels with those recorded when the mall was operating at full capacity, as recently as 2009. The site will include restaurants and a food court but will not host events such as concerts when it opens later this year, the agency said.

"We are confident that once all the facts are known, the project will enjoy significant community support," the mailing states.

Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, a project opponent, called the mailing a "starting point," but said many residents would prefer a face-to-face meeting with agency officials.

OTB officials have not disclosed plans for community briefings but plan to send additional mailings.

OTB is not expected to participate in a community meeting Thursday at St. Brigid Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Westbury.

While numerous elected officials have announced their opposition to the site, including County Executive Edward Mangano, local officials say they cannot block the facility because OTB is not subject to local zoning laws.

A spokesman for the state Gaming Commission emphasized that the panel's authority "is limited to ensuring that the standards of location for a new simulcast theater or new off-track betting branch have been satisfied." Site selection is "wholly a function" of the local OTB corporations, whose boards of directors are selected by the county legislature, said communications director Lee Park.

Addressing concerns that VLTs would lead to increased crime, the mailing said uniformed and plainclothes security guards would patrol inside the casino and outside the facility on foot, bicycle and by car. Surveillance equipment would include closed-circuit television and cameras.

Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said Tuesday that the department would aggressively monitor the site and "adjust the policing on an as-needed basis."

OTB said the casino would create 200 permanent jobs and generate up to $20 million in annual revenue for the county, as well as increased sales taxes. OTB projects the site will also provide the state with $80 million annually to boost education spending. With Nicole Fuller

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