Governor Andrew Cuomo

Committee With Ties to Cuomo Gets $2 million from Gambling Association

A committee comprised of influential and powerful members from the real estate world that is closely aligned with Governor Andrew Cuomo received a $2 million contribution from The New York Gaming Association, a lobbying group with ties to Genting Bhd. and other gambling interests, according to published reports.

cuomo Committee With Ties to Cuomo Gets $2 million from Gambling Association

Gov. Andrew "Moneymaker" Cuomo

The donation to The Committee to Save New York was made last December, weeks before Gov. Cuomo had argued for legalizing gambling in New York state. It was also made before Gov. Cuomo announced an agreement had been made between the state and Genting to develop a $4 billion “racino” at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

Genting made a contribution worth approximately $400,000 to The Committee to Save New York in 2011, while The New York Gaming Association, a trade group that was launched by Genting and other gaming operators, donated $2 million, The New York Times reports:

“Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, strongly disputed any suggestion that he was influenced by money from the gambling industry. He noted that he had expressed support for an expansion of casino gambling months before the contributions were made, and that he had diverged from the gaming association on several key issues.”

‘To try to suggest an improper relationship between the governor and gaming interests is to distort the facts in a malicious or reckless manner,’ Richard Bamberger, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said in an e-mail.”

News of Genting’s and The New York Gaming Association’s donations come a day after Gov. Cuomo announced that several casino developers would be vying to develop casinos in or around New York City. Last week during an appearance on David Paterson’s radio show, Gov. Cuomo admitted that discussions between Genting and the Aqueduct Racetrack for its proposed casino-slash-convention center “haven’t really worked out.” This has lead Gov. Cuomo to propose no more than seven sites around New York where casinos could set up shop.

While addressing reporters yesterday, Gov. Cuomo  promised a “transparent” commission that will have the duty of selecting casino operators for the state after gambling is legalized.

As Capital New York reported:

“…Cuomo said that Genting would be able to compete in that competition—’If Genting wants to compete, God bless them’—but he said that the final decision would be made not by him but by a ‘transparent’ commission.

“What we’ve talked about is, part of the legislation, we would set up a commission and the commission would actually make the decisions,” he said today, following a press conference about decriminalizing the public possession of small amounts of marijuana. “I don’t want to make the decisions. I don’t want the legislature making the decisions. I would set up the commission and let the commission make the decisions on what is the best plan.”

In today’s The Commercial Observer, lobbyist Suri Kasirer has been working with casino operator MGM in submitting a request for proposal for one of the casino sites.

“The governor’s talked about seven sites, so it’s unclear where around the state this will end up being,” Ms. Kasirer said. “I think the model that MGM has will work much better closer to Manhattan.”

The Committee to Save New York, which includes CBRE’s Mary Ann Tighe and Tishman Speyer’s Rob Speyer, has raised around $17 million to help bolster Governor Cuomo’s agenda since he took office in early 2011.

In a statement yesterday, The Committee responded to its rapid growth:

“From the inception of C.S.N.Y., we have focused on a reform agenda designed to help create jobs, improve the economy of our state and get state government working for the people again,” said Michael McKeon, a spokesman for the committee. “We are proud of our track record, and if there are people who felt they were getting something more for contributing to C.S.N.Y., then they are simply wrong.”

drosen@observer.com