The Islandia Village Board Friday morning voted to approve a Suffolk OTB casino with 1,000 video lottery terminals that had stirred controversy in the small Islip Town community.
After OTB abandoned a Medford site because of opposition, the Islandia board welcomed it with a 4-0 vote that came as a critic, Martin Dettling of Smithtown, shouted “no casino” before village public safety officers escorted him out of the meeting room.
As Dettling was removed, casino supporter Donna Briscoe led a handful of residents in chants of “Yes casino!”
Trustee Diane Olk did not attend the 9 a.m. meeting; she told a reporter she was out of town Friday. In a text message to a reporter, she characterized the vote as a “sham.”
The chaotic meeting lasted five minutes. Village board members then walked out without commenting.
Delaware North, the Buffalo hotel and entertainment conglomerate developing the casino for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., had requested a special permit to build the betting parlor with 1,000 video lottery terminals in the Islandia Marriott Long Island hotel, on the Long Island Expressway north service road.
OTB officials have said they hope to open the facility in three to four months. The board’s approval of the special permit allows Suffolk OTB to begin work.
OTB officials have pinned their hopes for reviving the bankrupt agency on offering video lottery terminals to compensate for steep income losses in recent years as the horse racing industry has declined.
Suffolk OTB president Phil Nolan said, in an interview, the casino would create a “significant increase in employment.”
“This is a very good day for Islandia, a very good day for Suffolk County, and we’re very pleased with the vote,” he said.
In a statement released after the vote, Village Mayor Allan M. Dorman said the casino would create 200 jobs and cut taxes “by up to 50 percent” for residents. He said the casino permit would be reviewed every two years.
“We have taken steps to ensure Delaware North’s operation of this hotel and the VLTs will have a minimal impact on the surrounding communities, and it will be a hotel operating VLTs, not the other way around,” he said. “For one, there will be no Vegas-style shows at the hotel. Tony Orlando is not coming to Islandia.”
The casino would be the only OTB VLT facility on Long Island. Plans for VLT’s in Nassau County were abandoned in Westbury and Elmont after public opposition.
Nassau OTB agreed in March to transfer its authority to install 1,000 video lottery terminals to Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens in exchange for annual payments that will total at least $43 million over the first three years.
Suffolk OTB earlier this year scrapped a proposed Medford casino site when faced with opposition from residents and Brookhaven Town officials.
OTB hoped to receive a friendlier reception in Islandia, but many village residents, as well as residents of nearby communities such as Hauppauge and Ronkonkoma, opposed the plan, citing crime, reduced property values and traffic.
More than 50 people packed the small Village Hall meeting room Friday for the 9 a.m. meeting, which had been announced on Monday with no public explanation of the meeting’s purpose.
Paul Sabatino, a Huntington Station lawyer and former deputy Suffolk County executive who represents casino opponents, said the vote may have been illegal because the board did not have a written resolution. He said opponents may sue the village.
“It’s just another defect in a very flawed process,” he said.
Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), a casino opponent, said village officials “drank the gambling industry’s Kool-Aid.”
“It’s going to be a stain on the Village of Islandia if this thing opens up,” Fitzpatrick said.
Village resident Jennifer Tomasino, who opposes the casino, said the vote was “very disappointing, but the fight has only just begun.”
Briscoe said it would bring new jobs and revenues to the community of about 3,300 residents.
“It’s just going to be the same hotel. No glitzy lights or glitzy signs,” she said.
In a statement, Delaware North said the company plans to beef up security at the hotel and build a fence between the hotel and nearby homes. A spokesman said the company plans to soon complete its purchase of the hotel; a portion of the building will be leased to Suffolk OTB.
“We think the hotel in Islandia is a great location, and we plan to work with the village and nearby residents on any concerns with the facility’s aesthetics and operations going forward,” the statement said.