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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Cuomo Rushing to Racinos' Advantage

In an opinion piece published in the Albany Times-Union, Marc Baez, the president of The Partnership for Economic Development in Sullivan County (located in the Catskills region which is slated for two casinos, both of which may very well be sited in that county), writes that Governor Cuomo originally projected that revenue from casinos would start to flow to the state in 2016. However, as you may recall, the good governor's budget envisions casinos operating in January of next year.  Mr. Baez thinks that this raises serious concerns.

If we don't adhere to that original time frame, existing racinos could be given priority in licensing, because they can simply throw on an addition and begin operating what they call a "casino." Fast-tracking an existing racino would severely limit the creation of hospitality and tourism jobs generated by full-service resort destination casinos with amenities like hotels, golf courses, spas, world-class culinary options and performing arts venues.
It will also eliminate thousands of construction jobs across upstate, where they are so desperately needed.
Well, this all makes perfect sense; it's all coming together now. Indeed, how convenient for the racinos that the governor has moved up the timetable by a year!  As I've been saying all along, the fix is in on this thing.  The New York Gaming Association, representing the racinos, was against the casino referendum before they were for it; and they were the one group with the motive and means to effectively oppose it.  There's little doubt in my mind that their support was sealed in a backroom deal.  Jeff Gural will get his casino at Tioga Downs, the Saratoga harness track will get theirs, and Genting will get a piece of the action through its interest in Empire Resorts, the owner of the Monticello harness track racino, which will get their casino at the old Concord resort.  The accelerated timetable for the revenue creates the scenario for the siting board, to be selected by Cuomo's hand-picked gaming commission, to go through the motions - if any company is dumb enough to bother - and then pick the racinos based, in part, on the "economic activity and business development factor" component that is supposed to weigh 70% towards the siting decision.

And if that indeed transpires, the governor, who once called the racinos a "scandal" and said he "one hundred percent" opposed them getting casinos (a couple of days before the Times published an expose about NYGA's contributions to a pro-business group closely associated with the governor, in an attempt to head the story off and blunt its impact - unsuccessfully since the Times pretended that those remarks never happened), and who once gushed about all the great companies out there that would compete to bring the best world-class casinos to the state, will have completely reversed himself on the matter.  And he will likewise pretend that those remarks never happened.

I'm not really sure what the gentleman from Sullivan County is concerned about.  Surely, whichever casino or casinos are granted to companies there will be resorts and not racetracks, with the possible exception of a temporary facility at the Monticello harness track until the Concord is ready with its golf course, hotel, and spa.  And I'd think that the Catskills casinos will be in a strong competitive position with the other two.  Saratoga harness will agree to be somewhat scaled-down in deference to community concerns.  (Though our buddy Figless sure makes an excellent point about a giant hotel at the casino there.)  And Tioga Downs as a destination resort?  Well, maybe they can draw from surrounding areas, but I just don't see many people making specific plans to go to Nichols, NY when there are so many options available (and to be available) in the Northeast.  (No offense intended to Nichols, NY.)

  - Senator John Sampson....and yes, he is still a State Senator despite his being indicted last year on charges that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called “an especially breathtaking bit of corruption, even by Albany standards," has been indicted again.
The U.S. Attorney’s office today announced that Mr. Sampson, who once led the Senate Democrats, is accused of “making false statements to FBI agents about directing members of his Senate staff to take actions to benefit a Brooklyn liquor store in which Sampson secretly held an ownership interest.”
Mr. Sampson was also recorded instructing an anonymous government staffer to help the store deal with outstanding tax obligations. The senator even appeared to be aware of the potential illegalities involved, telling the staffer to “do it on your own cell phone and do it on your own time.”  He is further accused of lying about these incidents and others when speaking to federal agents. [Politicker]
Not sure if that was the same conversation as when he told FBI agents that "Not everything I told you was false."  Sampson's defense lawyer responded to the new charges the same exact way he responded to the first indictment....not even bothering to directly deny the charges, but instead asserting that his client has been fully cooperative, and adding:
 “We can, however, state categorically that Senator Sampson has not betrayed the public’s trust while acting as an elected public official. Indeed, after years of investigation and two indictments, the government has not charged Senator Sampson with a crime relating to the misuse of his public office."
The reader who sent this news along to me lamented the fact that, with all these charges, the feds will probably never even get to Sampson's sordid role in the AEG matter.  But if they ever do, Sampson's lawyer will have to come up with a new line.  Any charges along those lines would surely involve his client betraying the public trust and misusing his office by trying to steer the Aqueduct racino to his favored group, which was clearly less qualified to operate the facility than its competitors (which did not at that time include Genting).

1 Comment:

jk said...

Customers are flocking to the upstate casinos!

State gambling revenues drop 7 percent due to frigid weather