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Hundreds Brave The Cold To Protest Proposed Westbury Gambling Hall

WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Anger trumped the cold as hundreds braved temperatures in the 20s Saturday to protest plans to put a casino in a North Hempstead shopping mall.

"Everybody says no one can do anything about it. We're here to say we can do something about it," North Hempstad Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.

As CBS2's Steve Langford reported, it's the second protest in less than 48 hours. On Thursday, a thousand people jammed a local school to register their fury about the casino plan.

The plan, which would take over the old Fortunoff department store, would pumping $20 million a year into Nassau County coffers, Off-Track Betting said, and $80 million toward the state.

Nassau Gambling Hall
Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting has chosen the vacant Fortunoff store at The Source mall in Westbury as the site of a new gambling hall. (credit: Mike Xirinachs/WCBS 880)

Nassau Regional OTB said electronic slot machines would be just a small part of the plan.

"The idea is to have some nice restaurants, a food court, maybe a sports bar, a place where people can come and enjoy," Rich Baldwin said, gaming consultant for Nassau OTB.

The prospect of more traffic along Old Country Road the fear of more crime is prompting some residents to suggest a casino would send them packing. But one man in the crowd believes no one should be chasing business away these days.

"How long has this store been vacant? How much property tax will they pay? How many jobs will it bring?" Westbury resident Jim Sammartino said.

Many small business owners in the area told Langford off-camera the casino would be good for business, but they don't want to offend their regular customers who live nearby.

But rug merchant Maggie Peykar said the casino is making her business move out of the neighborhood after 43  years.

"We were about to keep half of this store and continue to do business around here, but as soon as we find out the casino is coming across the street, we say this is not going to be for us," Peykar said.

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