In a last minute meeting on Friday morning, a controversial plan to allow high-tech video lottery terminals inside the Marriott Hotel in the Village of Islandia in Suffolk County, New York was approved.
In a meeting that lasted only minutes, the village board approved the application for a special use permit that will bring 1,000 video lottery terminals (VLT) to the hotel located near exit 58 on the Long Island Expressway. The vote to approve the move was scheduled to take place last month but was cancelled by Islandia’s Mayor Allan M. Dorman.
Earlier this week, a post by the village stated that a special public meeting would take place at 9am, but made no mention of what was on the agenda. Almost as soon as it began, the unanimous approval of the plan by the board was met with “no casino” chants from some community members in attendance who oppose the casino. Some local residents worry that a gambling venue in their neighborhood will create a slew of issues including increased traffic, crime, prostitution, drugs, lower property values and even suicide. Also opposed to the mini-casino is Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, who said, “OTB is an antiquated business model. It no longer works. It is no longer is sustainable,” according to the News 12 Long Island report.
Supporters, however, say that the new business will bring jobs to the area and along with them millions of dollars’ worth of revenue to the village as well as Suffolk County. The board’s decision will be challenged in court within the next few days according to attorneys for the protesters.
The Islandia Marriott will be acquired by Delaware North, a global food service and hospitality company headquartered in Buffalo, which will maintain the hotel operations and lease space to Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., which would install the VLT’s. In addition to completing infrastructure and beautification projects, the privately held company will give the village a host fee of several million dollars. That money, the mayor says could be used to reduce village taxes by 50 percent for two years.
The original plans to build the casino at the Medford site had been in the works for more than a year. The 31-acre site on the south side of the Long Island Expressway at exit 64 was purchased by Suffolk OTB in November of 2014. However, the project was heavily opposed by the Medford Taxpayer’s and Civic Association and the Town of Brookhaven. The plan was scrapped by OTB earlier this year and in June Delaware North, the company financing and managing the project, submitted an application for a special permit to build the mini-casino at the hotel located between exits 57 and 58 on the north service road of the Long Island Expressway. Interest in the Islandia site was confirmed by OTB officials in a June 29 letter to the judge who is in charge of overseeing the OTB’s bankruptcy. The OTB firm, a Suffolk Legislature appointed nonprofit, is relying on the 1,000 VLT’s to bring it out of bankruptcy.
The state gaming board, as well as Suffolk OTB, will need to approve the mini-casino.