Long Island Nassau County OTB mini-casino

The Long Island Nassau OTB will operate a mini-casino in the county, but the location is still something of a mystery to lawmakers and residents. (libn.com)

A Long Island “mini-casino” could soon be approved somewhere in Nassau County, but the plan is a controversial one, not least of all because residents are still in the dark as to where the facility would be located.

The planned gaming house would be built and operated by Nassau Off-Track Betting (OTB), which would float as much as $100 million in tax-exempt bonds in order to buy and develop a location somewhere in the county.

The biggest problem for residents and legislators, though, is the secrecy around the project. Nobody has been made aware of the actual locations under consideration for the venue, which would likely hold up to 1,000 video lottery terminals, ranging from slot machines to electronic versions of popular table games.

Lawmakers, Residents Want Transparency

The location would have to be more than 100 feet from any homes, churches or schools, and some locations have already been rejected. But that still leaves plenty of mystery as to where Nassau OTB is considering building, something that hasn’t been very well received by lawmakers.

“Transparency. That’s what people want,” said Dalia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat in the Nassau County Legislature. “This issue has not come before legislators, so we don’t even know exactly what their plans are. The fact that this one agency can take all this power and make all these decisions on their own is…completely against what I think government should be.”

One publicly proposed location was at the Plainview River Palace. However, that was dismissed after public pressure, and Nassau OTB eventually committed to finding a location that wouldn’t be near the Nassau Coliseum, Hofstra University, or Nassau Community College.

According to a report by CBS2 New York, it’s likely that the mini-casino would be located a few miles east of the Nassau Hub.

Nassau OTB officials have said that they’ve narrowed down their choices to two or three potential locations, but that they cannot be more specific because of requests from those who could sell the land to them.

“The sellers have all said to us that they want it to be confidential,” said Nassau OTB chairman Joseph Cairo. “In fact, we signed confidentiality agreements because if we look at a location and we don’t take it, the seller doesn’t want to have negative publicity.”

State Casino Law Allows for Long Island Mini-Casinos

The new OTB facility is a direct result of the same casino expansion plan that will allow for up to four resort casinos to be built in upstate New York. Those casinos will be awarded in three areas: the Catskills, the Capital Region, and the Southern Tier. Of those three, the Catskills region, which also includes Orange and Dutchess Counties, has attracted the most interest from developers thanks to the fact that it is closest to New York City and the area’s history as a vacation destination.

Those factors could lead to two licenses being awarded in the Catskills region. A decision on which companies and locations will receive approvals from the state gaming commission is expected later this month.

The same casino expansion plan also allowed for two video lottery gaming facilities to be built on Long Island: one in Nassau County and one in Suffolk County, both to be operated by the OTB and containing up to 1,000 gaming machines. A final location for the Nassau facility should be known by the end of the month, and the mini-casino could be open about 10 months later.