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Suffolk OTB nears selection of video lottery site

An attorney for Suffolk OTB has told a federal bankruptcy judge that the struggling agency is nearing selection of a new site for a video lottery terminal facility and could open a temporary casino there in three to four months.

The lawyer, Christopher F. Graham, did not say where the new site is located, but he said it is not a previously proposed site in Medford.

Graham disclosed plans for the new location in an April 20 letter to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carla E. Craig, who is supervising the bankruptcy case of Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. Newsday obtained a copy of the letter. A hearing before Craig is scheduled for Wednesday in Brooklyn.

Suffolk OTB vice president Anthony Pancella, in a telephone interview, said he could not disclose the new site.

“There’s a plan to start a temporary facility to generate revenue soon,” he said. “Whatever details come out will be public details.”

Suffolk OTB officials announced plans in December 2014 for a casino with as many as 1,000 VLT machines at the site of a former movie theater in Medford. That plan has faced opposition from local residents and Brookhaven Town officials.

Graham said OTB officials plan to build a temporary facility at the new site with 500 to 600 VLT machines. The temporary facility would generate an estimated $5 million in annual profits, he said.

“An opportunity has arisen that may allow Suffolk OTB to pursue opening the proposed VLT facility at an alternative location — distinct from the site identified in the confirmed plan,” Graham wrote to Craig. “Suffolk OTB believes that the new site will be preferable for a variety of reasons, including better economics, local support and the ability to open a temporary VLT facility on an expedited basis at the same location as the VLT facility.”

OTB officials previously have said they were considering two or three unidentified sites. Newsday has reported that one of those sites may be an Islandia hotel.

Medford casino opponent Brett Houdek said he was not convinced OTB has dropped plans to build a casino at the Medford site. He said he would attend the court hearing Wednesday.

“We’d like them to tell the judge what they plan to do. . . . We want to make sure it’s off the table,” Houdek said in an interview. “Nowhere in that letter do they say Medford is not going to happen.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who opposes siting the casino in Medford, said OTB has not applied to develop a VLT facility elsewhere in the town.

“I do not believe they have any locations in Brookhaven,” Romaine said in an interview. “I can tell you this: They would be well advised not to look at Brookhaven.”

Islandia Mayor Allan M. Dorman could not be reached for comment.

Craig ruled last year that OTB must seek approval for the Medford casino from Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town. OTB had argued it was not subject to local zoning laws. The agency last year sold its Hauppaugue headquarters for $2.4 million to raise money as it faced lawsuits over the VLT site selection.

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