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Long Island

Plan would limit local say over siting betting parlors

"The Big Ugly" bill excluded a proposal regarding two video slot machine parlors that off-track betting entities in Nassau and Suffolk are having trouble siting. Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick

ALBANY -- With Nassau and Suffolk counties having issues siting new betting parlors for video slot machines, state lawmakers are weighing a proposal that effectively would say that local jurisdictions don't have veto power over Long Island off-track betting venues, legislators said Wednesday.

If it flies, the proposal likely would be tucked into a sprawling agreement that covers rent control and an array of other items agreed to by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and house leaders to close down the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers said. The session already has run a week into overtime with lawmakers set to return Thursday for what could be the final day.

Supporters of the off-track betting idea said it would make clear that the state's 2013 gambling expansion law didn't give local jurisdictions final say over siting decisions involving video slot casinos.

Opponents said it effectively overrides local zoning decisions. "It won't go over well" with some legislators, predicted one opponent.

Few legislators wanted to talk about it openly because the issue was in flux.

But Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) said lawmakers instead should go in the opposite direction and require local approvals for video slot parlors.

"Under current law, there is no place for community input," Murray said. "Instead of giving local governments less control over siting, let's do the right thing and give the people most affected by the location of gaming sites the voice to choose the location, or decide if one should even be in their neighborhoods."

Nassau and Suffolk received approval in 2013 to each open gambling parlors with up to 1,000 video slot machines, also called video lottery terminals. But the idea hit roadblocks on Long Island once officials began trying to pick specific sites.

For example, Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp., which estimates the gambling parlors would generate $20 million in new revenue for the county, withdrew a proposal to use a vacant Fortunoff property in Westbury after vocal protests. Suffolk too has run into protests about a proposed site in Medford.

Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) has called for withdrawing authorization for video slots on the Island altogether, citing the Westbury backlash.


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