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Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Declaration of Independence (FWIW)

Robert Williams, the acting executive director of the NY Gaming Commission, wants us to know that the casinos decision isn't rigged.

"This is not preordained," Williams said Friday during an editorial board meeting with the Times Herald-Record. "This is a real process, a real functioning process. I personally have had no connection with the Office of the Governor related to that. Nobody wants anything to do with us, because they are afraid of appearing like they are involved." [Times Herald-Record]
Hmmm, not sure what prompted that.  Unless it was suggested (and written) by Joe Percoco.

Of course, given this governor's history, it's entirely fair to be skeptical of any process ultimately under his purview that is said to be "independent." And we certainly don't have to dig too deeply for examples of that, to be sure.  As you may know, his administration is under federal investigation over alleged interference into the affairs of the Moreland Commission; and for its possible abovereferredto attempts to coordinate an organized response from the participants.
“He’s not looking for rubber stamps,” [Moreland Commission co-chairperson William] Fitzpatrick said [when the commission members were introduced]. “He’s looking for an independent commission, and we’ll do what Deep Throat told Bob Woodward to do: Follow the money.” [NY Times]
Later, of course, Fitzpatrick complained that “the interference has got to stop" (before he denied any interference at all) and Cuomo ultimately derided the notion that the commission was ever independent at all.   And then there was the matter of the IDC's coalition with the minority Republican conference in the State Senate.  "I have no intention of getting involved in either situation,” Cuomo had said of the leadership in the Assembly and the Senate.  Earlier this month, Capital New York completely blew the doors off that lie in this report, about which I've seen no retort from the Cuomo administration.

So, Rob Williams can say what he wants.  I think he's a totally honest guy, and that we have no reason to doubt that he believes what he says. However, given Cuomo's history and the connection that he has to each of the five members of the location board, I'm sure he has all of their text numbers stored somewhere, and doesn't have to go through the executive director to let his wishes be known. My take all along has been that there had to have been some kind of backroom deal made before last fall's election to get the NYGA, which includes the deep-pocketed Genting, to back off from their stated opposition to the referendum.  I have little doubt that, had they put their full financial resources into an advertising campaign, the vote result could have been different.  So, I still believe that this process is tilted towards Jeff Gural (Tioga Downs), who put $600,000 into supporting the referendum, then-NYGA president James Featherstonhaugh of Saratoga harness (East Greenbush and Newburgh proposals), and Genting (two Orange County proposals and an interest in the Adelaar-at-The Concord proposal) to walk away with casino licenses. This committee is free to prove me wrong.

 - Gannett's Joseph Spector (who you really need to be following on Twitter if you are interested in NYS politics) reports that Kevin Law, the chairperson of the Gaming Facility Location Board, is quite serious about the idea that any preconceived notions of how many licenses they will award, and where, are exactly that. “It says up to four. So the decision could be made to do less than four.” And he noted that while an Orange County casino may make the most money, that is not the only intent of the law.
Law said the objective is to balance between the needs of each region and the casinos that can be most profitable.

He also noted that New York has to mindful of growing casino competition in other states, pointing out there may one day be casinos in northern New Jersey – just across the border from Orange County.

“It’s really going to make our jobs very challenging. We want to do something good for communities that are starving for this type of investment. We’d love to do something to promote tourism upstate,” Law said. “But you have to also take into consideration what’s happening around us in the gaming industry.” [Press Connects]
Sounds in this statement as if Law is laying the groundwork to back off from the Orange County idea. While that might not result in the best bottom-line result for the state, it would, I believe, be the best result politically for the governor.  He could trumpet that he kept his implied promise that he would come to the rescue of the long-suffering Catskills region.  The people there would be extremely happy.  Might turn out to be too bad for them that the location board is so damn independent.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,

I interpreted Kevin Law's statement differently. He uses words like "want" and "help" with respect to disadvantaged communities. But then says we "have to" be mindful of what is happening in other states and do what is in the best interest of the state.

Could we see a post-award speech from Cuomo where he persuades us that he wanted to help the Catskills, but circumstances changed over the last year and the gaming commission had to adjust and award a casino in Southern Orange to compete with a northern NJ casino? he could leave with $450 million cash in hand from Genting to show off, and save face as well. He can tout how the $450 million will go directly to the kids. How nice!