- The Albany Times-Union reports today:
A federal grand jury investigation of Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno is focusing on hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled by a wealthy businessman into the senator's private consulting company to allegedly influence the powerful Republican lawmaker,And yes, that businessman is Empire investor Jared Abbruzzese. Yesterday, the paper reported that Abbruzzese owns 15% of Evident Technologies, the company to which Bruno directed $500,000 in grants that almost always are directed to non-profit companies.
We're also starting to read of stirrings amongst state Republicans that they should have a new majority leader on Jan 3, when a vote is scheduled. At this point, that would probably be a good thing for Empire. Their extensive proposals for Saratoga were seen as being aimed at Bruno, and the Senator has expressed a preference for the for-profit racing model that the group espouses. However, as details of the FBI investigation of Bruno emerge and increasingly point to his relationship with Abbruzzese, it seems as if it would be difficult, if not impossible politically for Bruno to throw his support behind his friend's group now. And that's especially so considering that Bruno's own appointees to the Ad Hoc Committee voted for Excelsior. Whatsmore, the high profile nature of the investigation provides political cover for Gov-to-be Spitzer to give approval to Excelsior despite his now-overshadowed plane rides courtesy of that group's Richard Fields. For Empire, a fresh face in lieu of Bruno might be their best shot to remain in the running.
- Got a comment in response to this post regarding Murray Chass' column the other day, and I checked out the writer's blog, The Verifiable Truth. In this carefully researched blog, I read about the extensive casino holdings and ambitions of Marian Ilitch, the wife of Detroit Tigers owner, and Little Caesar's founder Michael Ilitch. Ms. Ilitch is not an owner of the Tigers, but Mr. Ilitch worked to legalize gambling in the state, and obviously benefits financially from his wife's success.
It's hard to see how Bud Selig could permit that arrangment and say no to Swindal and his one itsy bitsy slots-only casino. OK, probably two itsy bitsy slots-only casinos. In any event, I would guess that they will come up with some arrangement that Swindal be involved only in the racing part of Excelsior. Because that's what he's really interested in anyway, not the dumb slots. Right? After all, it says right on their website that they're exclusively dedicated and committed to making thoroughbred racing in New York the best in the world.
- Donald Trump, the biggest name in the Pennsylvania casino sweepstakes, turned out to be one of the biggest losers when his TrumpStreet casino was passed over by the state gaming commission in favor of two casinos to be built on the Delaware River. I think Rosie O'Donnell picked a bad day to mock him. Here's a recap of the winner and losers.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are definitely amongst the latter. The rejection of the application by Isle of Capri means no $290 million for a new arena that would keep the team in the city. Winning bidder PTIG Gaming has agreed to a Plan B in which it would contribute $7.5 million a year for 30 years, but that would mean that the team would have to kick in $8.5 million initially, and another $4 million over the same time period. Penguins fans are now faced with the loss of the team.