Suffolk OTB announced Tuesday that president Jim LaCarrubba and vice president Anthony Pancella III have switched places as part of a management reshuffle.
Pancella, a Lindenhurst Republican who was instrumental in establishing Jake's 58 casino in Islandia and helping OTB dig itself out of bankruptcy, was appointed president and CEO by the OTB board of directors, officials said in a news release.
LaCarrubba, a former labor leader and former Long Beach public works chief who was named OTB president just 13 months ago, was appointed vice president and chief operating officer.
The change reflects the shift in the county legislature from Democratic to Republican control. Traditionally, OTB's president has come from the legislature's majority party, while the vice president has come from the minority.
Pancella and LaCarrubba pledged to work together as OTB seeks to expand on its recent run of success, including the opening of Jake's 58, a virtual cash-printing machine since its 2017 debut.
"Together I think we’ll be able to fulfill the vision that we’ve had here," Pancella, 61, told Newsday. "Everything’s been going according to the plan that we put together years ago."
Pancella's salary this year will be $250,000, and LaCarrubba will be paid $240,000, OTB officials said.
The switch comes two years after OTB escaped bankruptcy and a year after the agency bought Jake's 58, including its 227-room hotel, for $120 million from Buffalo entertainment conglomerate Delaware North.
Matthew Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the region's leading business group, said Pancella and LaCarrubba "are a team and together they’ve helped turn Jake’s 58 and OTB into a major economic force on Long Island. ... I expect that, even though the roles have flipped, they’re going to continue to be a great team and they're going to continue to take Jake’s 58 to even greater heights."
Jake's 58 last month took in $334,150,187 in wagers, according to the state Gaming Commission website.
In a statement, LaCarrubba said he and Pancella were "continuing our work together as we look to build on that track record of success."
In a brief interview, Pancella discussed OTB's future plans, including:
- Asking the State Legislature to approve expanding Jake's 58 from 1,000 video lottery terminals to 2,000 machines;
- Long-term plans to switch from video terminals to live gaming tables;
- Selling a 32-acre Medford parcel that had been eyed for a casino before Jake's opened.
Pancella said doubling the number of machines at Jake's would bring in an additional $120 million to $150 million annually. Besides generating income for Suffolk County, OTB pays proceeds from the casino to the horse racing industry and the state public education fund.
Despite Jake's success, Suffolk OTB responded to a state initiative seeking parties interested in downstate casino licenses, Pancella said. Switching to table games would allow Suffolk OTB to keep more of its profits because the agency would own the tables, he said, adding OTB leases video terminals from the state.
"It just brings a new element to us, and our numbers are so strong that that’s something we can do and generate more money for Suffolk," he said.
Newsday reported last week the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton was one of more than two dozen entities that applied for one of three downstate casino licenses expected to be awarded in the next several years.
Pancella said OTB is in contract to sell the Medford site, on the South Service Road of the Long Island Expressway, to a private company he declined to name. OTB had bought the site in 2014 for about $10.95 million with plans to build a casino there.
OTB withdrew that proposal in 2016 when it announced plans to open the casino in Islandia.
Pancella said initial reaction to the prospective sale from Medford civic leaders has been favorable. He did not disclose the property's sale price.
A Brookhaven spokesman said the town was not aware of the planned sale and declined to comment.
Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association president Brett Houdek said the buyer of the site is proposing a last-mile distribution center. He said he did not know the name of the buyer.
"We told them [Suffolk OTB] we would be more than happy" to support such a project, Houdek told Newsday. "We think it’s something that will be beneficial and would pay taxes, unlike the casino, and would be a benefit to the community rather than a drain on resources."