Medford Casino Hopefuls May Come Up Empty Once Again

Posted on December 6, 2019

Suffolk OTB isn’t content to wait until 2023. It has resumed looking into the possibility of a Medford casino.

Unfortunately for Suffolk, the same civic group that derailed the project years ago hasn’t moved from its stance. Opposition to a casino in the community appears to still be strong.

What’s new with Suffolk’s plans for a Medford casino?

According to a report from News 12 Long Island, the operators of Suffolk OTB have filed documents for an environmental impact study relating to placing a casino in Medford. That’s one of the earliest steps necessary to build such a facility.

The potential site is the former Brookhaven Theater. It’s a 30-acre tract of land near the Long Island Expressway.

The study supposes the casino would cover approximately 160,000 square feet. The facility would offer video lottery terminals.

The Medford study comes in concert with a broader study of gambling expansion in the entire state. The New York State Gaming Commission initiated that study last week.

Among other things, the state’s study will examine the very subject of allowing casinos in other parts of the state like Medford. While the Suffolk OTB study may be redundant in some ways, the laser focus on the particular business model and location makes it unique.

On top of whatever obstacles the study may uncover, local support for such a facility appears to be minimal. That’s what put the brakes on the project three years ago.

Local opposition to Suffolk already killed the project once

In 2016 a civic group called the Medford Civic Association was able to effectively squash any real movement toward renovating the Brookhaven for a casino. That same group has pledged to repeat its past success.

That opposition may only prove ironclad for a few more years, however. In 2023, an important tenet of the state’s current gambling law sunsets.

Until 2023, only the four upstate casinos may offer any types of gambling apart from horse racing and the lottery. While other companies do currently legally offer daily fantasy sports, that’s the subject of an ongoing lawsuit that Rivers Casino has joined.

In 2023, the “legal monopoly” that the four upstate casinos currently enjoy on things like slots and retail sportsbooks expires. At that point, the state will be able to award similar licenses to operators anywhere in the state.

For the owners of Suffolk OTB, having a facility ready to offer those types of games could allow it to pivot into that market quickly. They have more immediate concerns, however, having to do with their current business.

Bankruptcy and a lawsuit cramping Suffolk’s style

After declaring bankruptcy earlier this year, the owners of the Suffolk OTB filed suit against Delaware North. The lawsuit alleges that Delaware North intentionally mismanaged Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino in order to enrich itself and that played a role in Suffolk’s financial distress.

Delaware North has denied all the allegations and petitioned a state court to dismiss the lawsuit. The court hasn’t scheduled a hearing on the matter yet.

If Suffolk’s owners aren’t successful in bankruptcy court, that may deter them from completing the study on the Medford casino. Even a desirable outcome in those affairs may not be enough to make the facility a reality, however, as support for such a business there remains low.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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