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Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino backs Belmont casino plan; Rep. Gregory Meeks opposed

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino speaks after being

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino speaks after being sworn in during the Induction of Officials ceremony at Hempstead Town Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

New Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino on Thursday endorsed a plan for a video gambling parlor at Belmont Park while Rep. Gregory Meeks declared his opposition.

Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), whose vote could be critical as Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. seeks state approval for the project, said he is undecided but has concerns about traffic and the site’s proximity to schools.

Santino, a Republican who took over the town post this week, said the proposed video lottery terminal parlor would create jobs and generate new revenue for the county.

“Unless we are willing as a county and community to forgo the significant revenue stream that a VLT gaming facility would generate for vital public services as well as forfeit the substantial number of new, permanent jobs and economic development that would be created, I can think of no better location than one where horse race wagering has existed for more than a century,” he said in a statement.

Former Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray had opposed an earlier OTB plan to put VLTs at the vacant Fortunoff building in Westbury.

Meeks (D-Queens), whose district includes Belmont, said in an interview that the region is already “saturated” with gambling, including Resorts World at Aqueduct and Yonkers Raceway. Resorts World, located 10 miles from Belmont in Ozone Park, also is in Meeks’ district.

Meeks also criticized OTB for failing to hold public hearings on the plan. “We need a transparent and open process,” he said. “No one from the community, who would suffer the consequences, or benefits of the project, were consulted.”

In an email to constituents, Martins said there were “many unanswered questions” about the project. He raised concerns about increased traffic in Floral Park and the casino’s impact on nearby Floral Park-Bellerose Elementary School and Floral Park Memorial High School. “As the proposal is evaluated, the priority must be to identify and eliminate the impacts the siting of any such facility would have on the surrounding community,” he said.

An OTB spokesman declined to comment.

Earlier this week, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), whose district includes Floral Park, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie each announced their opposition to the plan.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano — who is relying on $20 million in revenue from the VLT parlor to balance his 2016 budget — and members of the GOP-controlled county legislature back the proposal.

OTB wants to build a 100,000-square-foot VLT parlor in the western grandstand that would cost about $75 million. The State Legislature must approve the plan because it would be built on state land.

As it awaits state approvals, OTB plans to erect a temporary gambling hall on 8 acres north of Hempstead Turnpike. The facility, which needs approval from the state Gaming Commission and the Office of General Services, would cost $10 million, take four to six months to build and could operate for up to 18 months.

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