Conceptual renderings show the exterior of the proposed Sands casino...

Conceptual renderings show the exterior of the proposed Sands casino resort at the site of the Nassau Coliseum. Credit: The Sands Corp.

The Nassau County Legislature took a key step this week in shaping the region's future by approving the transfer of a lease for Nassau Coliseum and the 72 acres surrounding it to Las Vegas Sands. It's only the first of many steps that could lead to a full-scale gambling casino and resort on that crucial swath of county-owned land.

The Republican-controlled county moved with surprising alacrity considering its track record against big development. Legislators who voted against previous incarnations of Hub plans changed their tune in going all-in on what is proposed to be a major legalized gambling operation on the last big piece of underutilized land in Nassau.

If only Charles Wang could talk from the grave. 

Monday's vote has immediate consequences for the county and neighboring communities. Transferring the lease allows Nassau to disconnect from a bad deal initially made during the Mangano administration; that agreement ultimately resulted in the lease being given to lender Nick Mastroianni II, who held a stifling $100 million loan on the Coliseum. This week's move resolves that loan, provides an immediate $54 million payment to the county, and brings added community benefits to neighborhoods like Uniondale, East Meadow and Hempstead Village. Legis. Siela Bynoe deserves credit for extracting additional money at the last minute. 

Now, Sands is officially Nassau's partner in charting what happens at the Hub. Hopefully, the county negotiated an ironclad contract which ensures the lease terms will be honored. To get the casino over this first hurdle, Sands officials ably discussed how they would address legitimate security, traffic and addiction concerns. But more questions remain, and key details are unknown.

A lengthy process awaits. Potential applicants for three downstate licenses have asked questions of the Gaming Facility Location Board, which is overseeing the siting process. The board has no timetable to provide answers but once it does, a second round of Q&A will begin. Once that's completed, license applications can be submitted; about 10 are expected for the three slots in New York City and its suburbs. That paperwork is expected to include many details, from a development's size and design to a breakdown of partners and revenue projections.

Opportunities for public input have been extensive — and will continue. After applications are filed, a community advisory committee will form for each casino candidate with members appointed by the governor, local state senator and Assembly member, county executive and town supervisor. The state board won't consider any application that doesn't have the committee's support by a two-thirds vote. Also necessary are zoning approvals and the related environmental review. That's where Sands will come before the Town of Hempstead to address traffic, water use, noise and light pollution, and other environmental concerns.

It's a complex path, one that must be traveled carefully if Nassau and its communities are to win this bet on the Hub's future.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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