Unfortunately, misinformation is leading to hesitation. Let us clear up some falsehoods and provide facts.
MYTH #1. GAMBLING IS GAMBLING
The first thing a casino proponent will argue is “What’s the big deal, there has been gambling at Belmont for over 100 years, it’s called horse racing.” The myth underlying this statement is that “gambling is gambling”. That’s just plain false. Not all gambling is the same.
There is a reason VLTs are called the “crack cocaine” of gambling in the professional addiction counseling literature. There is a distinct and qualitative difference between wagering on horse racing on the one hand and VLT gambling operations on the other hand. Reports and analyses point to the potential for serious, adverse social consequences to VLT and gaming operations. These include the potential for increased gambling addiction, increased alcoholism, and increased crime, as well as disparate impacts based on education level, race, and income level. These types of impacts are expected to be greatest in the communities that are close to such facilities.
Further, and as is obvious to anyone who is not purposefully ignoring the issue, there is a clear distinction between how a VLT Casino will be operated and how horse racing at Belmont Park is currently operated. Presently, with horse racing, wagering occurs at 22 minute intervals for approximately 8 hours a day, until dusk, on 92 dates at Belmont Park. Conversely, OTB proposes to add to the site a year round gambling facility which will operate 20 hours per day and 365 days per year, and which will clearly have a negative impact on Floral Park and other surrounding communities.
Even if you just think about it for a moment, you can see the tremendous difference between VLTs and horse racing. Right now, bringing your young children to Belmont might be a fun afternoon of watching horse racing. But would you bring your young children to a casino for a fun afternoon? You can’t. It is illegal to bring young kids to a casino for a reason. If you think there is no difference, consider the alcohol induced near riot that broke out at the Aqueduct Casino this past April.
Do not be fooled by their “gambling is gambling” myth.
MYTH #2. A VLT Casino will not impact floral park
This myth by the VLT Casino proponents is absurd on its face. There are too many examples of the potential negative impacts to list in a short space.
OTB and its political allies propose to convert Belmont Park from a facility that operates 8 hours a day, until dusk, on 92 dates a year, into a facility that operates 20 hours per day and 365 days per year. To generate the amount of revenues they are projecting, it is estimated there will be 10 - 20 thousand additional patrons going to and from Belmont Park each day. Floral Park Police Commissioner has been advised by other security executives in the gaming industry that we can expect the traffic on the major roads in Floral Park to double.
Casino backers are hoping you forget that New York State appears to be going forward with plans to also build a soccer stadium on the South Lot. Putting aside for a moment the impact on Floral Park from the soccer stadium as well, that plan removes a significant amount of the available parking at Belmont Park. Consequently, all the parking from the casino gamblers and soccer stadium spectators will be jammed into the north lot bordering the West End of the Village and the Floral Park Bellerose School. Further, that parking lot will now be servicing a facility that operates 20 hours a day. This lot will now need to be lighted. The neighborhood will be lit up all night and the sounds of slamming car doors and drunk and angry gamblers leaving the casino will disturb residents through the night.
An increase in traffic by that amount will inevitably lead to a delayed response time for emergency services. Winthrop Hospital already raised the same objection for the placement of a VLT casino at Fortunoffs.
The increased traffic and the need for increased police patrols because of the potential for increased crime will inevitably lead to a dramatic spike in police costs for the Village.
None of this will have any offsetting positive effects. These gamblers sitting in traffic are not likely to be frequenting the stores and restaurants of Floral Park. As OTB states in Newsday, their plan is for stores and restaurants to be built inside Belmont to cater to gamblers. Indeed, it is certainly in OTB’s interest that the gamblers not leave OTB’s premises. Rather than the increased traffic attracting additional customers for Floral Park businesses, to be contrary, the increased traffic to, from and around Floral Park, has the potential to make Floral Park aplace to avoid for shopping and dining.
myth #3. It's this or section 8 housing
This is the fear mongering that the casino backers will try to tell you is the only alternative. However, not only is this NOT the only alternative, Section 8 housing is not even a legal possibility at this time. The Request for Proposals for the development of these sites specifically excludes housing developments. Also, the casino backers are spreading the myth that Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages is seeking to put Section 8 housing in the South Lot of Belmont Park. They are attacking Assemblywoman Solages because she is on her constituents’ side in this fight. The only housing ever proposed was an over 55 year old townhouse development on a portion of the South Lot. You can call her to thank her for her support of her constituents at (516) 599-2972.
MYTH #4. Floral Park is the village of "NO"
Floral Park’s opposition to the placement of a VLT Casino at Belmont Park is not a knee jerk reaction in opposition to any proposed development at Belmont Park. The Village’s Belmont Park Preservation Task Force Committee has been studying this issue and its potential impacts on Floral Park for the past eight years. The Village of Floral Park has advocated for the past several years, since the State acquired control of Belmont Park, that the development of the Belmont Park campus should be guided pursuant to a comprehensive development plan that benefits Belmont Park and the surrounding communities. The Village has proposed significant and specific infrastructure improvements which could form the base upon which a master plan for the Belmont Park campus and surrounding areas can be developed. Any comprehensive plan developed for Belmont Park should be the result of an open and transparent process that involves community input from the outset, and not merely be a plan devised in a secretive process which is foisted upon a surprised community that has been excluded from the process.
MYTH #5. They have studied it and belmont is the best place for a casino
That’s what Nassau OTB said in announcing their selection of Belmont Park for their VLT Casino. Well, their same study last year said the vacant Fortunoff building in Westbury was the best place for their casino. But then they got chased out of that location. Senator Jack Martins said last year he studied it and said the best place for the casino was the Coliseum site in Uniondale. Hofstra objected because it was too close to their school, and that site was apparently ruled out (our representatives should take note that Belmont Park is closer to our High School and Elementary School than the Nassau Coliseum is to Hofstra). County Executive Ed Mangano reportedly said he supported a casino at OTB’s existing facility, the Race Palace in Plainview. But politically he won’t put it in his own backyard.
Obviously, OTB just pays to have a study say what they need it to say.
To be clear, Floral Park is not saying put this terrible idea in some other community. By now it should be apparent to everyone that this casino cannot fit beneficially in to any community.
All the communities of Nassau are tired of playing Russian Roulette with a gun held by OTB - - hoping OTB’s gun goes off in some other community’s head and ruin their neighborhood instead of our own.
Plainview and Bethpage rejected it at the Race Palace, Carle Place and Westbury rejected it at Fortunoffs, Uniondale, Hempstead and Hofstra University rejected it at the HUB. The villages of Floral Park, Bellerose, South Floral Park and Stewart Manor, together with the hamlet of Elmont, are saying that this is not right in our communities either.
MYTH #6. OUR elected representatives have no say in this
Most of our elected officials say they have no control over where this VLT Slot Machine Casino can be placed. That is simply NOT TRUE.
Pursuant to the Racing and Wagering Law, the Nassau County Legislature has the power and ability to replace the OTB Board of Directors at will. As County Comptroller George Maragos correctly pointed out, “The County has the ability to remove the appointed members of the OTB Governing board at will and as such has the ability to impose its own will on OTB.” [Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of the Comptroller for Fiscal Year ended December 31, 2013, at page 39].
OTB has gotten this wrong again and again. Call County Legislators Rich Nicolello (at 571-6209) and Vinny Muscarella (at 571-6208) and tell them it is past the time to replace the OTB Directors with Directors who will stop this and protect our communities.
Additionally, State law currently specifically prohibits a VLT casino at Belmont Park. OTB is lobbying hard for the State Senate and State Assembly to change that law. State Assemblywoman Solages supports Floral Park and opposes efforts to change this State law. Please call State Senator Jack Martins (at 746-5924) and ask him to support Floral Park and clearly announce that he opposes the casino at Belmont and will vote against changing State law to allow a VLT casino at Belmont.