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Suffolk OTB’s video lottery facility off Long Island Expressway opposed by groups

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. Opponents of a proposed video-lottery casino in Medford have filed a lawsuit against the Suffolk OTB, claiming the casino would violate Brookhaven Town zoning laws. Credit: Randee Daddona

A state Supreme Court judge heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by civic leaders trying to stop a proposed Medford video lottery casino.

Opponents of the plan asked Judge Jerry Garguilo to issue an injunction blocking the project, which could include up to 1,000 electronic gaming terminals at the former site of the Brookhaven Multiplex on an eastbound Long Island Expressway service road.

Attorneys for Suffolk County Regional Off Track Betting Corp. said Garguilo should dismiss the suit. Garguilo was not expected to issue an immediate decision, attorneys on both sides said.

OTB officials say the VLT facility is needed to help the agency and the county dig themselves out of debt.

Wednesday’s hour-long hearing in Riverhead came a week after a federal bankruptcy court judge ordered Brookhaven Town to review site plans and Suffolk County to consider issuing building permits and certificates of occupancy for the project. OTB officials were also ordered to complete an environmental review.

Peter Creedon of Northport, an attorney for the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization and Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, argued in court that the proposed 90,000-square-foot casino is not permitted by Brookhaven zoning. He also said a letter from Brookhaven officials certifying the facility would conform with town ordinances was defective.

Creedon said town officials last year backed off a plan to rezone the site in the face of public opposition.

OTB attorneys argued town zoning allows the betting parlor and said opponents should instead sue the town or the state Gaming Commission. Town officials, who are not part of the lawsuit, have said the gaming facility would be an “indoor amusement” that would be allowed by the property’s commercial recreation zoning.

“What is an OTB facility but an indoor amusement?” OTB lawyer James McManmon said.

OTB attorney Stuart Besen questioned whether Medford civic groups had legal standing to sue because he said their members don’t live near enough to the site.

Creedon said at least one Medford civic member lived near the parcel and would be affected by traffic from the casino.

After the hearing, casino opponent Brett Houdek said Medford residents would be “severely impacted” by the parlor. “I think we did very well” in court, he said.

OTB vice president Anthony Pancella said officials were awaiting an order signed by federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Carla E. Craig before submitting an application to Brookhaven officials.

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