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Suffolk OTB still has no buyers for land on LIE service road that was to be casino

The Suffolk OTB site in Medford on Nov.

The Suffolk OTB site in Medford on Nov. 12, 2018. Credit: Shelby Knowles

More than three years after abandoning plans to build a video lottery casino on a 32-acre property in Medford, Suffolk OTB appears to be no closer to figuring out what to do with the vacant site.

Attempts to sell the land on the Long Island Expressway South Service Road have been unsuccessful, and a move earlier this year to win state permission for additional video lottery terminals or a sports gambling venture did not materialize.

The fate of the site — once occupied by the Brookhaven multiplex movie theater, which was demolished about 20 years ago — remains unclear while OTB officials mull their next move.

In an email, Suffolk OTB spokesman Jon Schneider said no decisions about the property have been made.

“Suffolk OTB has a responsibility to the taxpayers to either develop the Medford location or sell it, and all options remain on the table,” he said.

Suffolk OTB, which filed for bankruptcy in 2011, purchased the site for about $10.95 million in November 2014 and later announced plans to build a 98,000-square-foot gaming parlor with 1,000 video terminals and horse racing simulcasts.

Amid opposition from Medford residents, OTB withdrew the proposal in early 2016, citing "obstructionist behavior" by Brookhaven Town officials who had pledged to block the plan. Months later, OTB's casino business partner, Buffalo-based conglomerate Delaware North, purchased the then-Islandia Marriott Long Island hotel with plans to convert part of it to a video lottery casino. Islandia Village officials approved the plan in August 2016.

OTB's earnings from the casino — one of the most successful in the state — are used to pay Suffolk County about $13 million over 10 years and pay about $15 million owed to creditors.

The Medford site has been on the selling block for three years but has had few takers. A car dealership showed interest but never submitted plans to town officials.

Suffolk OTB meeting minutes show that in March, vice president Anthony Pancella announced plans to bring an application for the Medford site to Brookhaven officials. The minutes don't explain what OTB planned to do with the site at that time, and minutes for subsequent meetings do not indicate whether the application was ever submitted.

"I don't know where they're going with it," said Brett Houdek, president of the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, which had opposed both the casino and car dealership plans. "I'd love to have anything on the property right now. It's crazy."

Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley, who represents Medford, said OTB has not forwarded formal plans for the site. He said any attempt to place a casino or sports gambling facility there would be met with opposition.

“I’m in the same place and I think the people of Medford are in the same place," he said. "The answer is no.”

Houdek said the property is a "prime location" that could be suitable for an office complex or indoor recreation, if OTB can sell it.

"There's no reason OTB couldn't put it out on the market," he said, adding proceeds from the sale would allow OTB officials to pay off debts. "It just needs to get out of the hands of OTB."

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