Nearly 1,000 people turned out at a public meeting on Long Island Wednesday evening, most of them to protest a proposal to build a casino at the site of a former Fortunoff store.
Nassau County Off Track Betting has proposed filling the empty building on Old Country Road in Westbury with video slot machines, anticipating it will earn $40 million, some of which will go toward state education funding.
OTB wants to buy the building and use 15 percent of it for video slots and off-track betting. No table games like poker or blackjack would be installed. OTB said the site makes the most sense from a business perspective.
"What we're building is a local VLT facility that we expect to be frequented by residents within the area, and we envision a facility that's going to encompass more than just gaming," said Rich Baldwin of Nassau OTB.
But residents fear it will attract huge, rowdy underage crowds, will further clog traffic on busy Old Country Road and bring their property values down.
"You don't know who's coming into the casino to gamble," said Diane Cola of Carle Place. "They're allowing 18 year olds, which means our children can go in there and gamble."
Darlene Williams of Carle Place feared "they're gonna be there til 6 in the morning. Whether they're drinking or not, they're gonna be up for 24 hours, and now they're driving. People live across the street, it's a residential area."
"This will decimate our community and lower our property values," said Denise Protesy of Westbury.
Baldwin said he doesn't believe those concerns aren't "realistic."
"There's been a significant amount of studies that are out there that would suggest that's not the case," he said.
The OTB is still negotiating a price for the building, and then would need to do environmental and traffic studies before getting approval from the state Gaming Commission. The community is hoping the legislature and the governor will step in and stop it from getting that far.