Nassau OTB Picks Belmont for Mini-casino

Rashed Mian/Long Island Press

The Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting (OTB) Corporation announced Tuesday it plans to build a mini-casino at Belmont Park in Elmont, nearly a year after it withdrew a similar proposal for Westbury amid public opposition.

Opponents have previously held rallies opposing the horse racetrack as the revised location for the video lottery terminals (VLTs) facility in anticipation that Nassau OTB would use Elmont as its Plan B. But county leaders back the OTB’s decision, which ends months of speculation.

“The addition of VLTs and other first class amenities to existing gaming operations will enhance the entertainment experience for visitors to Belmont Park as well as producing revenue that will support vital public services that the county provides to its neediest residents,” Nassau OTB said in a statement.

The plan is to build 1,000 VLTs, aka electronic slot machines, on a parcel near the grandstand. Suffolk Off-Track Betting wants to build a similar nearly 100,000-square-foot facility for an estimated $40-million in Medford, where residents have also objected to the idea, arguing that casinos cause traffic and crime.

Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) has been an outspoken critic of the plan.

“I will continue to oppose this because a casino is wrong for Nassau, wrong for Elmont and wrong for our residents and most importantly their children,” Solages said. “But what is an even more despicable act than stuffing a casino down our throats is the continued lack of transparency in this process. If we cannot trust the foundation of this project to be open and allow for public input, then how can we trust them with the revenue that will be brought by the casino?”

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican, disagreed.

“Belmont Park is a logical selection as the existing gaming facility is underutilized,” Mangano said in a statement. “The next step is to further discussions with local legislators and OTB to create a community benefits program that keeps property taxes down, invests in schools, addresses ingress and egress concerns while creating jobs and providing residents with a local entertainment option that keeps their dollars invested locally.”

Mangano has reportedly projected $20 million in expected revenue from the gambling facility in Nassau County’s 2016 budget.

The Nassau OTB said that Belmont was chosen “after exhaustive study and review, including the input of nationally recognized consultants to the gaming industry.” The OTB said that it “strongly believes that Belmont Park is the best possible site for the location of a Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) facility.”

Eight miles away, the Resorts World casino at Aqueduct has 5,300 VLTs already in operation.

In the meantime, horse racing begins again at Belmont Park on April 29, with the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the fabled Triple Crown, set for June 6.