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Islandia residents crowd village hall opposing casino at hotel

Jennifer Tomasino, 34, of Islandia, brings up her

Jennifer Tomasino, 34, of Islandia, brings up her concerns to the Islandia village board during a public hearing on Suffolk OTB plans to build a mini-casino with 1,000 video lottery terminals at the Islandia Marriott hotel, Tuesday evening, July 5, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A standing-room-only crowd packed an Islandia Village Hall meeting room Tuesday night to protest a planned Suffolk OTB mini-casino at a nearby hotel.

Many in the crowd of about 60 people expressed fears that the betting parlor — with 1,000 video slot machines and an OTB racing simulcast facility — could lower property values and bring crime, increased traffic and gambling addictions if it is added to the Islandia Marriott Long Island.

Jennifer Tomasino, 34, said she was concerned about problems at the casino spilling over to her home, about 100 feet from the hotel.

“If we knew it was going to have a casino, we obviously wouldn’t have purchased it,” Tomasino said to village board members. “What’s to say if a person loses money, that they aren’t going to try to rob somebody?”

Delaware North, the Buffalo entertainment conglomerate developing the casino for OTB, is asking the Islandia Village Board for a special permit to add the casino to the hotel.

Mayor Allan M. Dorman said the board would vote on the request next Tuesday.

Dorman said added tax revenue from the casino would help the village reduce property taxes for residents. “Yes, your taxes will go down,” he said. “That would probably be our first priority.”

Anthony Guardino, an attorney for Delaware North, said the 30,000-square-foot casino would occupy parts of two floors at the hotel. It would employ 280 people and operate from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week, he said.

He said the casino would have little impact on the community.

“This site, we believe, is uniquely situated for this use,” Guardino said.

Some residents were unable to enter Village Hall because of space limitations and listened to the meeting outside. They could be heard inside the building roaring with approval when speakers spoke against the casino plan.

Residents of nearby communities such as Ronkonkoma also said they opposed the casino. The audience included some Medford residents who fought a casino proposal in that community.

“They’re concerned about this. They’re concerned about their property values,” said Bruce Edwards, president of the Ronkonkoma Civic Association. Then in a reference to Delaware North’s operation of a space program facility in Florida, Edwards said: “I would rather see the space shuttle here than a casino.”

Suffolk OTB officials have said Delaware North plans to buy and operate the hotel, and lease space for the casino to OTB.

OTB officials turned to the Islandia site after abandoning plans to build the VLT facility in Medford.

OTB officials have said building a new casino is key to their plans to dig the financially ailing agency out of bankruptcy. OTB is scheduled to appear Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn.

The Islandia proposal also drew opposition from Hauppauge school district officials.

In a letter to Dorman, school board President David M. Barshay said the casino would be about 3 miles from three district schools.

“We strongly believe that locating it in such close proximity to school facilities threatens the safety of our students,” Barshay said in the letter, a copy of which was furnished to Newsday by district officials.

Barshay also expressed concern about possible crime and alcohol use at the casino, adding that gambling at the hotel may cause “financial ruin” for some customers. “This also creates an economic drag on the local community,” Barshay wrote.

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