Town Board on casino: Show us the money!

Three locations within the Town of Riverhead are being pitched as possible locations for a casino. But are Riverhead Town Board members in favor of a casino?

For the most part, they say, that would depend on what’s in it for the town.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said all along he is “fundamentally opposed” to a casino but is willing to keep an open mind and invites people to show him why one would be good for Riverhead.

What about the other board members?

“It depends,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. “Are they going to lower town taxes and pay all our school taxes? If everybody’s taxes go down, then it’s something to entertain, but we’ve got to form a committee to find out what the benefits of a casino are and what the negative effects are that they can have on a community.”

When casinos are approved, they typically sign what’s known as a compact with the state, whereby a percentage of casino revenues can be allocated to offset the operations of local governments. Ms. Giglio said she would want assurance that the town would benefit from such an agreement.

Councilman Jim Wooten voiced similar sentiments.

“I’m not against a casino, as long as there is a benefit to the taxpayer,” he said. “While an Indian casino would be exempt from paying taxes, there would have to be some sort of payment in lieu of taxes that would benefit the town and the schools.”

Councilman John Dunleavy already supports a casino.

“I think it will help the taxpayers of the town and it bring jobs here,” he said. “Every casino creates about 8,000 jobs, and that’s basically what we need.” He said the town would have to ensure that it gets a percentage of the revenue from the casino “so we could make some money on this and reduce taxes.”

“I’m leaning against it but I want to get some more information,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said. “I don’t agree with what it brings in. It’s a quality of life issue.”