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Nassau OTB Eyes Vacant Westbury Store As Site For New Gambling Hall

WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting is planning to open a gambling parlor at the former Fortunoff store in Westbury, Long Island.

As CBS2's Emily Smith reported, it is hard for some to imagine the old Fortunoff building turning into a mini-casino. But the prime Westbury location has been selected officially as OTB's first choice.

But some people living in the area were less than thrilled.

"Nassau County does not need this," said John Viscusi. "We are the fourth highest-taxed county in the United States. This is not needed here."

The gambling parlor would include up to 1,000 slot machines and table games, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported. It may open as early as next year.

Nassau OTB Eyes Vacant Westbury Store As Site For New Gambling Hall

But the stretch of Old Country Road where the building is located is already notorious for being one of the most congested areas on Long Island.

"It will certainly bring more traffic to the area, which I don't think we need," one woman told Xirinachs.

There's also concern a mini casino will drum up a rowdy crowd.

"It is putting this community right here in jeopardy, with the amount of traffic and influx of crime that will happen – because it is eventually going to happen," Viscusi said.

"I would feel better if they put in some stores or an office," a woman added.

But an OTB representative said just 15 percent of the building will be for video lottery terminals. The rest would be first-class restaurants and a food court.

Jeweler Mike Mercorella has been open just across the street for eight years. As a resident, he was not happy about the casino plan, but as a struggling business owner, he said he welcomes any extra traffic a casino would bring to his store.

"Exposure, exposure," Mercorella said. "It was good when Fortunoff's was here for us. Everybody said, 'Oh, where's Fortunoff's?' It's not a competition. It's exposure."

Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said the plan has to be approved by the state still. And expects public hearings to take place

"I do expect there are going to be some meetings and some rallies," Cavallaro said.

OTB has reportedly opened negotiations to purchase the vacant store at The Source mall from Fortunoff bondholders and lenders.

A public meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21 at Carle Place High School, but Cavallaro told Newsday that the project would not be subject to local zoning boards.

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing for more casinos around the state as a way to boost business in struggling areas.

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