Dear Presiding Officer Gonsalves,
As you are no doubt aware, the board of directors of the Nassau County Off-Track Betting Corporation (“OTB”) has recently announced plans to construct a large casino at the former Fortunoff site in the heart of Westbury. As we understand it, this casino project will feature as many as one thousand video lottery terminals – essentially high-tech slot machines – including gaming tables for possibly higher stakes games of chance. The casino may even have the option of operating throughout the evening and into the early hours of the morning. Moreover, although located at a former retail site, the casino would be in close proximity to a number of quiet residential neighborhoods.
In my opinion, it cannot be denied that such a gambling facility, and the kind of activity it will inevitably attract, seriously threatens the family-oriented quality of life in Westbury and the surrounding communities. Yet, distressingly, there is no indication that the OTB board has given the slightest consideration to the interests of our residents. On the contrary, the board has attempted to push through this highly controversial casino project behind closed doors with no transparency or public participation – apparently in an effort to avoid public scrutiny and community opposition. In my view, it is clear that the prospect of generating large-scale gambling revenue for itself and the County has blinded the OTB board to the well-being of its neighbors and to the greater good of the community. I strongly believe that through its irresponsible actions, the OTB board has forfeited the trust and confidence of the Legislature and should be removed. I therefore urge you to support a resolution immediately terminating and replacing the current OTB board members.
Understand that this is not a partisan attempt to alter the political composition of the board. In fact, I pledge to you that I will personally support -- and urge my colleagues in the Minority Caucus to likewise support -- any board appointees put forth by the Majority, regardless of party affiliation. But I make this proposal on two essential conditions: 1) any appointee proposed by the Majority must publicly commit on the record to call a halt to the proposed placement of the casino at the Westbury site; and 2) the site eventually selected, if any, must be chosen through an open, transparent process with the opportunity for significant public participation -- as opposed to the current process which has effectively disenfranchised tens of thousands of County residents who will bear the brunt of the impact of the casino.
Finally, given all that is at stake here, I believe that a resolution replacing the board should be placed on the full legislative calendar for January 26, 2015 and acted upon by emergency if need be.
Siela A. BynoeLegislative District 2