BELMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was voted in by state referendum, but now that it’s come time to place a gambling parlor in Nassau County, battle lines are being drawn.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, it’s a good bet in communities around the racetrack at Belmont Park that everyone’s taking sides.
“It’s good because people need jobs,” one man said.
“I think it’s gonna increase illegal activities,” one woman said.
“Bring in business excitement, I love the idea,” another man said.
Over coffee and across front lawns, residents are at odds with the announcement that Nassau’s Off Track Betting picked Belmont as the place to install 1,000 video lottery terminals.
Two-thousand protesters gathered Tuesday in Floral Park, concerned about traffic, crime, and low property values.
Just a year ago, Westbury residents fought off the placement of Nassau’s only video gaming parlor at the old Fortunoff site.
Now, it’s a new battle ground, with the same battle cry.
“This is an unimaginative way of raising money. I really think this is short-sighted by our leaders,” said Floral Park Village Mayor Thomas Tweedy.
“We desperately need the revenue,” said Patrick Nicolosi.
Nicolosi, with the Elmont East End Civic Association, was drowned out at the rally. He favors video gaming at Belmont for the $20 million it could bring in annually to the cash-strapped county.
“I don’t oppose of the gambling at a race track, it’s crazy. It’s like arguing against prayer in church. It’s a race track, people go there to gamble,” he said.
“There is a quantitative and qualitative difference between wagering every 22 minutes during 8 hours of horse racing versus 365 days a year, 20 hours a day of VLT gambling,” said Tweedy.
Floral Park abuts Belmont. Its elementary school is adjacent to the backstretch of the park.
“I’m very disappointed in our elected officials that this is where they are going to with their novel idea for generating revenue? And we will remember in November,” said Heather McClintock, with Our Lady Of Victory School Board.
Plans are moving quickly, but require state Legislature approval. OTB wants to build a temporary gambling hall west of the grandstand in the meantime.
Supporters point to the Powerball frenzy as evidence gambling can be good, clean fun and rake in revenue. But Mayor Tweedy warned that if it’s forced on his community, he’ll sue.
The OTB had no comment. A task force has been formed to find better uses of Belmont Park.