The Village of Islandia and Delaware North are named in a suit filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Wednesday that seeks to nullify a vote last month approving a Suffolk OTB video lottery casino in the Marriott Hotel.
The plaintiffs in the suit, including a coalition of Islandia, New York residents and civic groups from Hauppauge and Ronkonkoma, argue that last month’s impromptu vote is invalid because the village failed to request traffic impact studies from the state, county, and Islip Township officials, according to the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Paul Sabatino. On August 3, the Suffolk County Planning Commission said that information should be reviewed prior to voting. The Huntington Station attorney said, “They voted on nothing. They voted on a blank piece of paper,” Sabatino said in a telephone interview. “It’s like a phantom vote on a phantom document on a phantom permit for a phantom casino,” according to Newsday.
The casino is being developed for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. by Delaware North, a global food service and hospitality company headquartered in Buffalo, which completed its acquisition of the hotel late last month. The company is planning to lease space inside the property to Suffolk OTB and expect that the facility will be open for business by the year’s end. Suffolk OTB is not named in the suit, said Sabatino.
According to the news agency, both the president of Suffolk OTB, Phil Nolan, and Islandia Village Attorney Joseph Prokop, declined to comment on the suit. And while the lawsuit was not directly addressed, Delaware North released a statement on Wednesday stating that the betting parlor “will bring significant economic benefits to Suffolk County and Islandia. … We think the hotel in Islandia is a great location, and we plan to work with the village and nearby residents on any concerns with the facility’s aesthetics and operations going forward.”
In a meeting lasting only minutes, on August 12 the village board approved the application for a special use permit allowing 1,000 video lottery terminals (VLT) as an accessory use to the hotel located near exit 58 on the Long Island Expressway. Sabatino said that it is not the norm for casinos to be considered an accessory or for “incidental” uses for hotels, and that the village zoning code “explicitly” prohibits casinos, according to the report. The vote to approve the move was scheduled to take place last month but was cancelled by Islandia’s Mayor Allan M. Dorman. The mayor said the special use permit would be reviewed every other year.
Proponents of the casino say that the revenues from the slots operation would create jobs and lower taxes. During its first full year of operation, Islandia is guaranteed at least $2 million in revenue from the casino and $3 million the second year. That revenue, said Dorman, would cut village residents’ property tax bills by as much as half. While opponents say the casino would increase traffic and crime and lower property values.