Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County were told by a federal bankruptcy judge on Monday that they must review for approval a video lottery casino proposed by the Suffolk Regional Off Track Betting Corp. for Medford, New York. The company has said that opening the casino is important for them to emerge from bankruptcy.
The off track betting (OTB) firm has been stymied for months in opening the casino east of state Rte 112 off the Long Island Expressway service road. The 90,500 square foot building would house 1,000 video lottery terminals (VLT). Monday’s decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carla E. Craig, in Brooklyn is seen as a way for the company to move forward after town, county, and state officials all passed the buck on who was responsible for reviewing the proposal for approval.
In her decision the judge ordered the county to accept Suffolk OTB’s building permit application and to issue the permit if it “conforms to the standards” of its uniform code. Going further the judge ordered the county to issue a certificate of occupancy once construction is completed.
The judge gave the town and county one week “to submit an order consistent with this decision within one week.”
Suffolk OTB president, Phil Nolan embraced the decision, telling local media that it gave the company a way forward for its VLT parlor, and that a nearly completed environmental review would soon be submitted to Brookhaven.
Brookhaven’s Conservative Party and a group calling itself the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association have sued to stop the project citing their beliefs that a casino in their area would lead to excessive drinking, an increase in crime, and traffic problems. They contend that current town zoning laws do not allow for a betting parlor at the location and plan to go forward with litigation. Oral arguments are expected to take place before a Supreme Court justice next Wednesday. The groups have staged several rallies in opposition to the casino, authorized by the state.
The county doesn’t intend to challenge the judges decision, town officials are still reviewing it.
Suffolk OTB has not operated at a profit since 2006 and the judge said the VLT parlor was critical to the company’s bankruptcy emergence plan. Suffolk OTB filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in May. The company could profit as much as $2 million the first year and $3 million the second with additional profits going to creditors.
350 new jobs would be created at the casino and 250 existing jobs would be protected.
In September, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a five year audit of New York’s OTB business noting a major crash in revenues. DiNapoli’s proposed in his report on the audit that Suffolk County could open a slot parlors to stem OTB losses.