As a resident adviser at Hofstra University, Drew Mackey spends a lot time keeping students away from alcohol.

So he was surprised to learn that Nassau County officials are considering building a casino just down the road.

"I don't see the benefits of opening a casino right by a college," Mackey, 22, a junior from California, said Wednesday.

Throughout the campus and across Nassau County, people reacted with a mixture of disbelief, outrage and sometimes hope to County Executive Edward Mangano's announcement that he has discussed a casino at the Coliseum site with the Shinnecock Nation.

Many, like Anil Mathur, the vice dean of the Hofstra's Frank G. Zarb School of Business, were trying to weigh the costs and benefits. On one hand, he worries about the noise and hubbub of a casino. Yet he also wants jobs for students and graduates.

"We want economic development and economic activity, but we have to think about the nature of the economic activity," Mathur said. Like other administrators and professors, he said he was reacting personally, and not as a university official.

Hofstra spokeswoman Karla Schuster said in a statement, "The idea of a casino raises very serious and substantial issues about its impact on the university, its neighbors and the entire region. When more details are known, the board of trustees will undertake a careful and thorough analysis of any proposal."

The casino idea is "an interesting concept," said South Merrick Community Civic Association president Joe Baker. But he couldn't say whether it would be an improvement over the $3.7-billion Lighthouse project proposed by New York Islanders owner Charles Wang.

"If it helps ease property taxes, it's a home run," he said.

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who represents the residential area of Uniondale, was critical of Mangano for revealing the proposal without consulting the community.

"I would think on something of the magnitude of a casino, the county executive would have spoken to me or other officials who represent the area," he said. "I don't know how the community will respond."

Nassau residents need more details, said Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), whose district is just to the east. But "you can't shut down any option with the county facing a budget gap of $400 million" next year, she said.

The casino proposal is "part of a bigger political game" intended to boost prospects of the Lighthouse or other developments, said Lawrence Levy, executive director of Hofstra's National Center for Suburban Studies.

"Normally, casinos are seen as economic development projects of last resort - a way of jump-starting the economy of a place that has little going for it," Levy said.

Hofstra student Bari Morchower, 19, from New Jersey, worried about traffic.

Yet Nathalia Fernandez, a senior from Westchester, was intrigued. "It would attract tourism and excitement to town."


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