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Islandia Village to consider law allowing hotel/gaming facility

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Ira Bezack, the attorney for the residents who have sued the Village of Islandia over Jake's 58 hotel and casino, spoke Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, about a board meeting to discuss the casino. The board voted unanimously to propose amending language in the village code to allow a "hotel/gaming facility" in certain districts. Credit: Newsday / Yeong-Ung Yang

The Islandia Village Board voted unanimously Monday to propose a law that could help stop a legal effort to shutter the Suffolk OTB video lottery casino at Jake’s 58 hotel.

The board voted 5-0 to propose adding language to the village code allowing a “hotel/gaming facility” in Islandia’s Office and Industry zoning districts. The proposed law also sets parking rules for those facilities.

The board set a public hearing on the proposal for 6 p.m. Nov. 28 at Village Hall.

The law, if enacted, would address a flaw in the village code that was cited by a state justice in September when he ruled the village board had acted improperly last year when it approved a special permit for the gaming parlor.

Opponents of the casino had sued the village and Buffalo-based casino operator Delaware North, arguing the special permit was invalid because gambling halls are not allowed in the office and industry districts.

State Supreme Court Justice William Ford, in his Sept. 8 ruling, said the special permit should not have been granted “because there is no evidence in the record to support a finding that a VLT [video lottery terminal] gaming and/or OTB simulcast facility is a permitted accessory use” in Islandia hotels.

Lawyers for the village have filed papers indicating they plan to appeal Ford’s decision. Lawyers for casino opponents have asked Ford for an injunction closing the casino; Ford has not acted on that request.

Mayor Allan M. Dorman and other village board members did not discuss the measure Monday before voting. In an interview, Village Attorney Joseph Prokop said the proposed law was “pretty straightforward” but declined additional comment, citing the lawsuit.

Ira Bezack, a Melville lawyer for casino opponents, said the proposed law was “an inartful attempt by the mayor to legalize that which is illegal.”

He said the village could not retroactively change the law in order to validate the special permit, which was approved in August 2016.

“I think it is an acknowledgment that the law, as it exists, does not permit the continued operation of this casino,” Bezack said.

Since opening in February, Jake’s 58 casino has become among the most successful video lottery gaming parlors in the state, generating $217.8 million in gross revenue in September.

Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials have said the casino would help the struggling agency pay off $15 million in debt and escape bankruptcy, as well as save 250 jobs. Delaware North has agreed to pay Islandia $47 million over 20 years for “taxpayer relief.”

In a statement Monday, Delaware North officials said they “applaud the village’s action to begin to address the zoning issue raised by the court.”

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