A lawyer for Suffolk OTB told a federal bankruptcy court judge Tuesday that plans for an Islandia video lottery casino are moving forward with construction expected to begin soon.
Attorney Christopher F. Graham said the casino is expected to open in December at the Islandia Marriott Long Island hotel, on the Long Island Expressway North Service Road.
He said he received architectural plans for the casino last week and demolition is beginning at the site.
“We’re moving full speed ahead,” Graham told U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carla E. Craig during a hearing in Brooklyn.
The hearing was the first since the Islandia Village Board voted in August to approve a special permit for the casino. The state Gaming Commission also has approved the plan.
Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials have said the casino, which will have 1,000 video lottery terminals, is key to plans to dig the struggling agency out of debt.
OTB owes millions of dollars to multiple creditors while losing revenue due to the declining popularity of horse racing.
Craig noted that the casino finally won approval despite opposition from some Islandia residents. An earlier plan to build a casino in Medford was withdrawn due to opposition there.
Opponents of the Islandia casino have filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Riverhead in an attempt to block it.
“Nobody seems to want this facility in their backyard,” Craig said.
Graham said OTB lawyers are reviewing whether the lawsuit could affect the casino. The suit was filed against the Village of Islandia and Delaware North, the Buffalo conglomerate developing the casino for OTB.
Graham revealed few details about the casino, but said rooms in the betting parlor will be named after painters such as Renoir and Matisse.
He said the planned opening is timed in part to the end of the horse racing season, when OTB typically loses revenue from betting.
“We’re into the last month of racing,” Graham said. “We hope to have the casino up and running by the winter.”
Andy Eckstein, a lawyer for OTB creditors such as racetracks that he said are collectively owed about $15 million, said he is optimistic that the casino will help OTB come out of bankruptcy.
“We’re hoping that this one sticks,” Eckstein said.
Suffolk OTB is due back in bankruptcy court on Jan. 11.