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Gov. Hochul Faces Criticism over Alleged Favoritism in New York Casino License Application Process towards Political Campaign Donors

According to sources familiar with the matter, Kathy Hochul, the Governor of New York, could be giving two slot parlors with links to local politicians and political campaigns, an advantage over competitors seeking to be granted full casino licenses downstate.

As a result, Ms. Hochul has faced criticism after the rumors that she helped set up the application process in favor of the Yonkers and the Aqueduct racetracks through the language of her state budget, which the local Legislature approved. The language of the budget provides the two racinos in the state of New York – MGM-Empire City Yonkers and Genting New York-Resorts World at Aqueduct – with credit for already heaving the infrastructure necessary for such a project, as part of the criteria that operators applying for table game licenses need to meet.

Reports claim that Genting New York-Resorts World’s lobbyists have contributed more than $50,000 to the political campaigns of Governor Hochul or friends of hers. According to data provided by the state Board of Election, lobbyist John Cordo donated $25,000 in August, while Patrick Jenkins donated $15,250 over the past year. On the other hand, Genting New York at Aqueduct has made political donations worth $2 million over the past decade, while also spending more millions for lobbying the legislative and executive branches.

Now, each gaming company is expected to bring about $500 million upfront to the state in return for the privilege of obtaining one of the casino operating licenses mentioned above.

Piece of Legislation’s Language Gives Grounds for Favoring Certain Casino License Candidates, Critics Claim

The process of selecting the most appropriate sites for the casino licenses was one of the key points in the budget, which also included a controversial taxpayer subsidy of $850 million aimed at building a new Buffalo Bills stadium, as well as almost $1 billion in slush funds that are being spent by Governor Hochul across the state as she seeks to be re-elected. The criticism regarding the favored language for the racinos followed the accusations that Ms. Hochul partnered with political campaign donors that sponsored her campaign.

Experts have noted that, as said in the most important line in the piece of legislation, the casino siting board may take previous private capital investments into consideration when making a decision on the matter. For the time being, only Genting New York-Resorts World at Aqueduct and MGM-Empire City Yonkers have such investments and assets in place in the metro region. Both consortiums have operated their slot parlors for more than ten years.

The controversial language in the law says that a casino area may be included in the minimum investment made by operators. Previously, Genting has established a hotel to serve a fully-licensed casino. Other companies applying for a casino license, including Hard Rock, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts, would have to build entirely new facilities.

However, according to some critics of the piece of legislation, the language gives ground for favoritism in the selection process and is a retroactive investment that is unfair to other applicants for the operating permits. The opponents of the measure said that it seemed that Governor Hochul was much more concerned about inserting language to set up the bidding process in favor of companies that would contribute to political campaigns, rather than focus on some priority matters, such as Covid-19 recovery or tackling criminal activity across the state.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.