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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Gambling industry campaign donations add up - The Insider | Crain's New York Business
A year ago, the New York Times reported that gambling lobbyists in New York were urging clients not to donate heavily to Albany lawmakers in the wake of a 2010 scandal surrounding bidding of the Aqueduct racino license and campaign contributions.
However, that did not stop several gaming interests from giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers in 2012, though many of the donations were fairly small. The money was almost entirely spent by interests with a foothold already in New York, while campaign records show that big out-of-state operators like MGM, Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and Caesars weren’t giving to lawmakers last year, thoughseveral of them have hired lobbyists.
The Seneca Nation, which operates several casinos in Western New York and has an exclusivity agreement, gave more than $334,000 to state lawmakers in 2012. Notably, that included $175,000 to two campaign committees of New York Senate Republicans and $50,000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. Meanwhile, the Oneida Indian Nation, in central New York, gave more than $22,000.
Genting, the Malaysian casino giant that operates Aqueduct (winning the development rights after AEG was disqualified in the 2010 scandal) gave more than $213,000 to lawmakers in 2012, according to campaign finance records. Its biggest donation to a lawmaker was on Jan. 11, 2013, to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The bulk of its spending went to the New York Gaming Association, of which Genting is a member along with racino operators. The association, which is led by well-known lobbyist James Featherstonhaugh, gave more than $164,000 to lawmakers though a political action committee. In February 2012, the group gave $25,000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.
Genting’s priorities have shifted over the past year. During the early part of 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the company were talking about building a $4 billion convention center (and allowing full-scale casino gambling) at Aqueduct in Queens, but the plan fell through. During his 2013 State of the State address in early January, Mr. Cuomo announced that the first three (out of a proposed seven) casinos in the state would be built north of New York City. First, the Legislature must pass a constitutional amendment legalizing casino gambling in New York. The change would then have to be approved by a majority of voters statewide. That is expected to set off a fierce battle this session over where casinos will be sited and which companies will land the business.