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Nassau plans for more gambling revenue ride on Albany

Video-lottery terminals at Resorts World Casino at the

Video-lottery terminals at Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday. Nassau County receives revenue from 500 of the machines. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Nassau County and its off-track betting corporation are bickering about a $3 million payment OTB owes the county, but there’s a much bigger jackpot on the table that the county must collect.

The money comes from a revenue-sharing agreement that designated for Nassau County coffers some of the take from 500 video-lottery terminals at the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The county says the $3 million was due on March 31, while OTB says May 15. However, both sides say the money will be paid soon. The dispute, however, brings forth a more troubling issue: Struggling Nassau County expects $20 million from OTB a year from now, and has included that in the 2019 budget it is drafting. OTB officials say that bigger pot gets paid a year from now only if Resorts World can add another 500 machines to be designated for Nassau. Otherwise, the money Resorts World pays OTB annually won’t increase from the current $9 million to $25 million until 2019. OTB’s payment to Nassau County comes from that pot.

Why would Genting, the operator of Resorts World, go slow? The 500 machines it runs now for Nassau are purposely the most popular and profitable at Aqueduct. That’s because Genting pays only 5 percent of its take on the Nassau machines to the horse racing industry, compared with 16 percent of profits on all of its other machines. But Genting is hesitating because the cut on the next 500 machines isn’t set. That is just one piece of a bevy of gambling laws to be decided in the next session in Albany.

State lawmakers must approve the additional 500 machines for Nassau and assure the county gets its much-needed $20 million for 2019. And while Albany is fixing gambling laws, it must stop throwing charity at the dying racing industry and keeping alive the OTBs, which are more jobs programs and patronage pits than anything else.