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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Casino Bidders Pay ($11 Million) to Play

Here's the report by the NY Public Interest Research Group which details the $11 million spent, in 2012-13, by the players in the casino sweepstakes on lobbying and campaign donations .

It's surely not a surprise that Genting, and other companies related to its CEO KT Lim, involved in three separate bids (two Orange County bids for Genting, and the Concord proposal by Empire/EPR), led the way, at $2.47 million for lobbying and nearly $1 million on campaign contributions.  In addition to those sums, Empire Resorts itself spent another $665,000 on lobbyists.  You can see the complete lists on pages 3 and 4 of the document above; the list of contribution recipients on page 5, and the lucky lobbyists on page 7.
The single largest recipient of casino companies’ donations was the New York Jobs Now Committee, a casino-backed PAC which lobbied in support of the passage of the statewide ballot referendum that legalized casino gambling last fall. The committee received $1.9 million over the two-year period. [Capitol NY]
Jeff Gural, bidding for the Region Five license at Tioga Downs, is second on the list of campaign contributors at just over $700,000, no doubt in an effort to get the referendum passed; he was the most visible of the racino owners actively involved in that effort. 

Note that, due to a rather gigantic loophole in the disclosure laws, these totals do not include lobbying in cities or towns with populations less than 50,000; only Schenectady amongst the prospective host locations has a population great than that.  So, all of the lobbying that went on to gain the necessary local approvals, of which we can be sure there was quite a bit, is not reported here. Nice.

The report notes that "many bidders spent through vaguely-named holdings" in an effort to mask their true origins.
Flaum Management [involved in the Caesars bid in Woodbury, and the Hard Rock effort in Rensselaer -ed.] contributed through companies such as 12225 Jefferson, LP; 1999 MT RB LLC; 2250 Brighton-Henrietta, LLC; Edgemere Development Inc.; Onondaga Galleries LLC; and The Hague Corporation
And NYPIRG most pointedly points out that there would have been no campaign contributions from bidding companies (and their vaguely-named holdings) if not for the last-minute removal from the casino-enabling law of a clause prohibiting such spending.
Despite being touted in a press release by Governor Cuomo and widely covered by the press in subsequent weeks, this provision was quietly removed soon before the final version of the bill was voted on. The first media report revealing this change was not revealed until 7:39 p.m. in the evening on the day the bill passed, several hours after the Assembly had voted on it. There was so little fanfare behind this decision that, according to one Assemblymember, many members of his house were completely unaware this had been removed before casting votes in favor.
 At the time, Pat Bailey reported on the local CBS6 blog:
When asked about the removal of the language a representative from the Governor's office said all four leaders must agree on the terms of deals cut. I called the offices of each of the three leaders who regularly meet with Cuomo to hash out deals but I did not [receive] comment from anyone except from Speaker Sheldon Silver's office who told me "we were not opposed to the provision in the bill".
 Gee, can't imagine why a bunch of politicians would have that nasty little provision quietly removed!

 - The two remaining slots on the Gaming Facility Location Board have finally been filled, and - another big surprise here - they are reported to be "two more men with close political ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo." [NYSNYS News]  Dennis Glazer is the husband of Westchester DA Janet DiFiore, whom Cuomo appointed to head the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in 2011 (she resigned a year later prior to running for re-election).  Kevin Law, like fellow Location Board member Stuart Rabinowitz, was appointed by Cuomo as co-chairman of the Long Island chapter of his Regional Economic Development Council.  Law, who at one time worked with top Cuomo aide Larry Schwartz, has periodically issued statements in support of Cuomo initiatives (and one in favor of the governor's working relationship with GOP Senator Dean Skelos).  And, most tellingly, Law had been prominently mentioned as a possible Cuomo running mate for his November re-election bid.

I don't believe that either man would fall in the same category of 'Cuomo crony' as prior appointees William Thompson or Paul Francis.  I detailed their history with the governor in this post.  But still, four of the five members have either worked with/for, or been appointed to a present post by, the reigning governor of New York.  So it would seem as if Cuomo surely has a friendly audience that will no doubt be receptive to his wishes.


jk said...

Looking forward to the NYRA transportation study.

The Record: More transit delays; still no answers on Super Bowl debacle

Adding insult to injury is the fact that NJ Transit paid $1.2 million to a global planning company, AECOM Technical Services Inc. The firm was supposed to provide accurate forecasting on rail use to the stadium. Then-NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein had been a senior vice president at AECOM before he joined NJ Transit.

Figless said...

$11M reasons to legalize gambling in the state, just wait until they open up the bidding for the NYC casinos.

The NJT is just a blip that will disappear shortly.

The corruption is astounding.

Yet our country has the chutzpah to blame overseas problems on corrupt governments, of course only in the countries we don't like.