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Town Rolls The Dice On Gaming

Plainview is on the long list of Nassau and Suffolk County towns vying score an electronic gaming facility — but many residents see that prospect as gambling with community safety.

State lawmakers approved a deal in June that would allow the two counties to each operate 1,000 electronic gaming machines, known as video lottery terminals (VLTs), in Las Vegas-style slot machine parlors, set to open in the coming year. These parlors would operate out of restaurants and bars.

One potential site named by Nassau officials is the Race Palace, 1600 Round Swamp Rd. in Plainview. While the current operators at the Race Palace chose not to comment on this story, local residents have been vocal with their opposition to any form of gambling facility in the community.

Ginger Lieberman, president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education, said that aside from the fact that there are three schools within a very short distance of the Race Palace, other factors like traffic congestion should raise the red flag to any official or developer.

“There is a half mile of residential property off the Long Island Expressway service road. And there are only two ways for those people to get home. It’s the same problem for anyone who lives along Washington Avenue. They have no sidewalks, so more traffic would be a very big concern for them,” she said. “This is also a quality of life issue. There are certain things associated with casinos — transient people, drunk driving — to willingly bring that into a residential area is just wrong.”

Advocates for VLTs in Plainview and other Nassau locations said the influx of revenue generated from gaming machines would boost the local economy and also bring many jobs to the island. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said the State deal passed in June will give residents a chance to spend their money locally, rather than in an out-of-state casino.

“The law provides residents who now travel out of the county to recreate in gaming the opportunity to spend their money in their home county while bolstering educational and municipal services,” he said.

Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp. president Joseph Cairo said chief concerns at Plainview’s Race Palace are access to and from the facility, as well as parking. The Race Palace was engineered and wired more than 10 years ago to accommodate an electronic gambling facility.

But the building’s feasibility to gambling machines is inconsequential to Lieberman, who said the Plainview-Old Bethpage PTA passed an anti-casino resolution in November and that other local organizations have helped by getting petitions signed and rallying against the idea of any type of casino in Plainview — electronic or otherwise.

She said keeping electronic gambling out of Plainview is not about stifling economic growth, but rather, it is a safety issue — one she takes very seriously.

“We are not being snobby. There are certain things that you bring into a commercial area and certain things that should stay out of residential areas,” she said. “The thought of different people coming in and cutting through private streets makes us worry about our kids and the rest of our residents.”

Joe Nerry, an Old Bethpage residents who lives just off Round Swamp Road, close to the Race Palace site, agreed and said a gaming facility does not fit the neighborhood’s characteristics.

“I don’t have anything against electronic gambling, but I just don’t think Plainview is the right place for it,” he said. “Put it somewhere else.”