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Lawsuit to block Medford casino is premature, state judge says

Judge Jerry Garguilo listens to testimony during a

Judge Jerry Garguilo listens to testimony during a hearing at State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. Garguilo dismissed a lawsuit filed by opponents of a proposed video-lottery casino in Medford against the Suffolk OTB, claiming the casino would violate Brookhaven Town zoning laws. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

A state judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block a Medford casino because it was premature, but said civic groups had standing for future action against the planned betting parlor.

The arguments against the casino “were not yet ripe for review” because no final decisions had been made, state Supreme Court Judge Jerry Garguilo wrote in his opinion released Thursday evening.

The Suffolk Regional Off Track Betting said it planned to complete its environmental review of the project and site plan, which is being revised after suggestions by the town of Brookhaven.

“If they go to court again, we’ll be standing, making our arguments,” said Phil Nolan, Suffolk OTB president.

Brett Houdek, a plaintiff with the Medford Civic and Taxpayers Association, said opponents expected to file a suit to block the casino, which argued it’s improperly zoned. He said the group also expected to challenge the environmental process.

“We have enough irons in the fire to stop this thing cold,” Houdek said.

He said he was pleased that the judge granted the group standing in the lawsuit. The Brookhaven Town Conservative Committee had withdrawn as part of the action.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carla Craig ordered the county of Suffolk and town of Brookhaven to handle the project’s application after the agencies hesitated to deal with the controversial project.

The Suffolk OTB, a nonprofit whose board is appointed by the Suffolk Legislature, is banking on the 1,000 video lottery terminals to bring it out of bankruptcy. The organization currently takes wagers on horse racing.

OTB bought the site of a former movie multiplex, off Exit 64 of the Long Island Expressway, for almost $11 million in November 2014.

Brookhaven Town officials declined to comment.

With Carl MacGowan

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