Judge Refuses To Sign Temporary Restraining Order, Orders Full Hearing For Feb. 27


WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — More than a year ago, New York State approved video gambling in Nassau County, but residents now say it’s a gamble they don’t want to take.

It has turned from a grassroots fight into a legal battle. In court on Friday there was heated opposition to a proposed video gambling parlor at a former Fortunoff store, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“We are taking it right to the end. We do not want a casino,” Westbury resident Kathy Lally said.

“They just announced that they were going to select this site, sign a contract sometime before the end of this month without doing any traffic studies, environmental impact studies and without complying with local zoning laws,” attorney Oscar Michelen added.

Three municipalities, the Town of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Westbury, are suing to stop Off-Track Betting’s plans for a gaming parlor on Nassau’s busy Old Country Road, near Roosevelt Field Mall and 200 feet from homes.

“Traffic, unwanted elements, crime,” Westbury resident John Viscusi said, citing reasons he’s against the gaming parlor.

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting has chosen the vacant Fortunoff store at The Source mall in Westbury  as the site of a new gambling hall. (credit: Mike Xirinachs/WCBS 880)

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting has chosen the vacant Fortunoff store at The Source mall in Westbury as the site of a new gambling hall. (credit: Mike Xirinachs/WCBS 880)

The state law authorizing video lottery terminals in Nassau, Suffolk and four upstate casinos passed by public referendum in 2013, after near-unanimous support from Long Island’s state legislators. However, attorneys for local towns argue the gaming parlors cannot bypass local zoning laws. Suffolk residents are also organizing for a legal fight against a second parlor in Medford, on a lot near the Long Island Expressway.

“We don’t need it. We want to build a good community and we are at the tipping point right now,” said Don Seubert of the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association.

“Medford and the entire Long Island community was cut out of the entire process. This was the proverbial ‘three men in a back room’ in Albany,” added the Taxpayers and Civic Association’s Brett Houdek.

OTB promises high security, no live table games and millions of dollars in county and state revenue. The agency said it is exempt from local zoning and is “confident its position will be sustained in the courts since it has acted in full compliance with state law.”

“We don’t believe the statute applies. We believe we are exempt from zoning under racing law 518, which allowed OTB when it was enacted in 1974 to conduct their business as an approved activity,” said Arthur Walsh, the attorney for OTB.

Late Friday, a judge issued an unpopular decision, refusing to sign a temporary restraining order, but he did order all parties back to court on Feb. 27 for a full hearing on whether or not casinos have to abide by local laws.