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Suffolk OTB takes another gamble at opening Medford casino

Suffolk OTB owns the 30-acre site in Medford,

Suffolk OTB owns the 30-acre site in Medford, seen in 2018, near the Long Island Expressway. Credit: Shelby Knowles

Suffolk OTB has filed plans with state officials for a 160,000-square-foot video lottery gaming facility in Medford, three years after abandoning similar plans and opening a successful betting parlor at Jake's 58 hotel in Islandia.

The new proposal, contained in documents submitted this month to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, came to light through an announcement of a public meeting to be held next month to discuss the project.

The effort would be OTB's second attempt to build a casino on the 30-acre site on the Long Island Expressway South Service Road. OTB scuttled previous plans in 2016 amid opposition from residents and Brookhaven Town officials.

The new plan would face a succession of hurdles, including authorization from the State Legislature for additional video lottery terminals, and approvals from the state Gaming Commission. A gaming commission spokesman said OTB has not filed a formal application for a new casino.

Plans for the facility — which would be more than 60 percent larger than the 98,000-square-foot project OTB dropped in 2016 — call for an on-site sewage treatment system and parking for 2,347 vehicles, including a three-level underground garage.

OTB bought the land, previously the site of the Brookhaven multiplex movie theater, for $10.95 million in 2014. 

"Suffolk OTB may either develop the Medford location or sell it to an entity which will," Suffolk OTB spokesman Jon Schneider said Tuesday in a statement. "Conducting an EIS [environmental impact study] is a critical step under either scenario and represents no change in policy or approach for Suffolk OTB."

OTB last month sued Jake's 58 owner-operator Delaware North for $5 million in federal Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn, alleging the Buffalo-based conglomerate used the casino as a "piggy bank" and diverted money from OTB accounts. The lawsuit also seeks permission for OTB to sever its relationship with Delaware North. Delaware North has asked a bankruptcy court judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

A Delaware North spokesman said the company is "not involved in any way" in the Medford project.

Jake's 58 is one of the most successful in the state, earning gross revenue of more than $6 billion since it opened in February 2017, according to the gaming commission.

In September, the casino’s 1,000 terminals raked in $322.9 million in wagers, according to a gaming commission report. The casino has generated more than $200 million since 2017 for New York State, as well as millions for Suffolk County, the Village of Islandia, and Suffolk OTB’s creditors, according to OTB.

OTB's plans caught some officials by surprise. Brookhaven officials said they were not aware of the proposal.

County Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said the plan was a “fiscally irresponsible move” by OTB as it seeks to escape bankruptcy and pay $13 million it owes to the county over 10 years.

“I think they would run into the same opposition from the community,” Calarco said. “It does not make sense to me in any way why they would want to build in another location at this time.”

OTB has scheduled a public "scoping session" at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 to review its plans. Scoping sessions are held to address possible environmental impacts posed by proposed construction projects. 

The hearing, which is open to the public, will be held at the Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Holtsville Long Island hotel, 1730 N. Ocean Ave. in Holtsville. The DEC will accept written comments through Dec. 19. Copies of a 16-page draft environmental review are available at OTB's Hauppauge headquarters and at the Patchogue-Medford Library, the DEC said.

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