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Pols make last-minute push to triple video slots at LI casino

Visitors try their luck at the Jake's 58

Visitors try their luck at the Jake's 58 Hotel and Casino in Islandia on Oct. 2, 2018. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

ALBANY — Two state legislators are making a last-minute effort to triple the number of video slot machines in Suffolk County to 3,000.

Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and Assemb. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) proposed a bill that would allow the county to boost the number of video slots at Jake’s 58, the Islandia facility run by Suffolk County Off-Track Betting. They submitted the bill over the weekend, just days before Wednesday’s scheduled adjournment of the 2019 legislative session.

It applies only to Suffolk and not to the number of machines authorized in Nassau County.

“It’s an effort to move the discussion forward and increase revenue for Suffolk County, which is still struggling with a deficit,” Gaughran said Monday. “We have to be looking for ways to expand nontax revenue to benefit our counties.”

Gaughran suggested the increased revenue could be used for water-quality improvements or law enforcement purposes. He said the intention of the bill was to increase the number of machines at Jake’s rather than at a new location.

An outspoken gambling opponent called it “greed.”

“I believe it’s wrong for government to be paying its bills with revenue from another gambling expansion. It’s morally reprehensible. It’s greed,” Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said. Given the late submission of the legislation, he added: “We’ll see if it goes anywhere.”

Suffolk and Nassau each were granted authority to host up to 1,000 video slots under a massive gambling expansion, which included four upstate casinos, shepherded by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2013. Subsequently, Nassau “transferred” its slots rights to Aqueduct in a $43 million deal in 2016.

Regarding the timing of the most recent proposal, Gaughran said it was a “late request” following discussions with county government and Suffolk OTB.

“It was a late request. It’s not something that’s been sitting on my desk,” the Democrat said.

Islandia Village officials have supported the casino, even touting the $47 million in “tax relief” payments over 20 years that Buffalo-based hotel-casino owner Delaware North agreed to give the village.

Mayor Allan Dorman, however, said shortly before the casino opened that he would oppose additional terminals. On Monday, Dorman said through a spokesman: “No application has been made” to expand the casino.

Some Islandia residents and civic groups sued the village and Delaware North in 2017, saying the village board approved illegal spot zoning to make way for the casino. A federal judge last year ruled that the case should not proceed; opponents appealed the decision.

“Tripling the number of slots would simply triple the illegality,” said Paul Sabatino, a Huntington Station lawyer representing opponents. “Equally important, the mayor of Islandia has stated on multiple occasions that there will never be more slots in Islandia.”

With Carl MacGowan

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