Common Cause/NY Releases Gambling Deal “Winners” & “Losers” List
For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2013
Susan Lerner, 212-691-6421
Common Cause/NY Releases Gambling Deal “Winners” & “Losers” List
Slams Senate failure on comprehensive campaign finance reform
ALBANY, NY — On the last day of the 2013 legislative session, Common Cause/NY released updated campaign contribution and lobbying figures for the gambling industry and a list of the “winners” and “losers” in Governor Cuomo’s casino gambling deal, as well as a category of entities which neither won nor lost but could be classified as having played to a draw. In September, Common Cause/NY released a comprehensive report on gambling in New York State, “Stacking the Deck”, which analyzed public campaign finance reports and lobbying records, revealing the top donors, recipients, and lobbyists involved in this contentious and lucrative endeavor. (www.commoncause.org/ny/stackingthedeck)
Common Cause/NY also castigated the State Senate for failing to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform or any anti-corruption measures whatsoever despite a session overshadowed by federal indictments, investigations, and convictions of sitting and past lawmakers.
According to the New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) over the past seven years 32 public officials have either been, convicted of a crime, censured, or accused of wrongdoing. Only 19 incumbents have left office by losing a general election. A Siena Research Institute poll released Monday showed that addressing legislative corruption is the top priority for New York voters. Sixty-one percent of voters support a small donor public financing system. In contrast, a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month showed that only forty eight percent of New York voters favor expanding casino gambling.
“As lawmakers continue to be led away in handcuffs and voters’ faith in government plummets, the good news is New Yorkers will now be able to gamble away their cares at four new upstate casinos. The gambling deal is a boon for certain wealthy special interests and of dubious value to the public. Yet, it’s no surprise that in Albany the Senate leadership’s priorities ignore corruption and disregard the real needs of New Yorkers who remain disgusted with the status quo,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY
GAMBLING DOLLARS FLOW INTO ALBANY
From 2011 to April 2013, the gambling industry spent a total of $19.7 million on lobbying and political contributions in New York State: $14.7 million on lobbying and $2.4 million on campaign contributions in New York in addition to donating $2.6 million to the Committee to Save New York (campaign contribution figures only include 2011 and 2012, new data for 2013 will not be available until July)
Top spending gambling interests directly affected by the casino legislation include the New York Gaming Association ($3.6 million), Genting New York ($3.3 million), The Seneca Nation of Indians ($1.4 million), Yonkers Raceway ($955,000), Delaware North ($927,000), Empire Resorts Inc. ($745,000), American Racing & Entertainment ($497,000), the Shinnecock Nation ($440,000), Nassau OTB ($423,000), the Oneida Indian Nation ($381,000), and Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. ($328,000).
Gambling contributions show no partisan preference and are channeled directly towards those in positions of power. The top campaign contribution recipients of gambling dollars during this period are the NYS Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($404,000), the NYS Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee ($372,000), Governor Cuomo ($242,000), Attorney General Schneiderman ($84,500), Senate Racing & Wagering Chair John Bonacic ($76,000), and Assembly Racing & Waging Chair J. Gary Pretlow ($59,000).
The top ten lobbyists retained by gambling interests during this period include a who’s who of the most influential firms in the state: Patricia Lynch Associates ($1.46 million), Cordo & Company ($975,000), Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker ($953,000), Meara Avella Dickenson ($805,000), Featherstonhaugh Wiley & Clyne ($787,000), Park Strategies ($649,000), Dan Klores Communications ($643,000), Kasirer Consulting ($470,000), Brian R. Meara Public Relations ($439,000), and Bolton St. Johns ($398,000).
WINNERS & LOSERS IN THE CASINO LEGISLATION
Indian Tribes: The Seneca, Oneida and St. Regis Mohawks will have exclusive rights to their regional casino territories in Western New York, Central New York, and the North Country respectively. This is a huge coup since the tribes would have been one of the major opponents to the ballot referendum voters will still have to approve to legalize full “Las Vegas” style gambling in New York State. These three tribes spent nearly $2 million combined on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2011 to April 2013.
Catskills casino interests and State Senator John Bonacic (R): For over a decade, Catskills politicians and business interests have tried to bring casino gambling to the region as a way to revive tourism and the aging resort hotels. Senate Racing & Waging Chair John Bonacic (R), who represents the region, used his influence to lobby hard for multiple Catskills casinos. He succeeded and the newly passed gambling legislation clears the path for two of the four permitted upstate casinos to locate in the Catskills. This is a clear win for Empire Resorts Inc., the owner of the Monticello racino and a company that is majority-owned Kien Huat, the Malaysian parent company of Genting. Empire Resorts spent $745,000 on lobbying and campaign contributions since 2011 and has a plan to build a casino resort on the site of the old Concord Hotel in partnership with Entertainment Properties Trust, a national real estate investment trust.[i] The other winners are the two entities that will fiercely compete for the second Catskills casino: Nevele Investors LLC ($52,000 on lobbying) and a partnership led by Muss Development ($55,000 in lobbying and contributions) and Foxwoods to build a resort on the old Grossingers hotel site[ii]
Saratoga Raceway: With much of the state closed to new casinos by the tribal exclusivity zones, the only regions that remain open are the Capitol Region, Hudson Valley/Catskills, and Southern Tier. Since two casinos are planned for the Catskills, this leaves the other two to locate in the Southern Tier and Capitol Region. In the Capitol Region, Saratoga Raceway is a clear front-runner to win the rights to build a full-scale casino. Part-owned by influential lobbyist and New York Gaming Association President James Featherstonhaugh, Saratoga has already announced plans for a potential casino expansion[iii] in advance of the referendum. Not including monies spent by the Gaming Association, Saratoga spent $328,000 on lobbying and campaign contributions since 2011.
Tioga Downs (American Racing & Entertainment) In the Southern Tier, the Tioga Downs racino owned by influential New York City real estate executive Jeff Gural is well positioned to win a casino license. Tioga Downs, its parent company American Racing & Entertainment and owner Jeff Gural spent a nearly half a million dollars on lobbying and contributions during this period, including a gift of $200,000 to the Committee to Save New York.
Nassau and Suffolk OTB: Both Long Island OTBs hired former Senator Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm, Park Strategies, and they delivered, winning new rights for each to build a 1,000 machine video lottery terminal parlor. Nassau OTB spent $423,000 on lobbying and Suffolk OTB spent $184,000 on lobbying since 2011.
Delaware North: Owner of the Hamburg and Finger Lakes Racinos in Western New York and a former bidder for the Aqueduct racino license, Delaware North will miss out on a chance to upgrades its facilities to full-scale casinos due to the exclusivity deal Governor Cuomo made with the Seneca Nation of Indians. Delaware North has spent $927,000 on lobbying and contributions since 2011.
Yonkers Raceway: The state’s second most lucrative racino, Yonkers will miss out on a chance to upgrade to a full casino until at least 2020 due to the 7 year moratorium on facilities in the New York City area. Yonkers Raceway spent $955,000 on lobbying and contributions since 2011.
Shinnecock Indians and Gateway Casino Resorts: The gambling deal has nothing on the status of the Shinnecock Indians’ attempts to build a tribal casino on Long Island. The Shinnecocks’ financial partner is Gateway Casino Resorts LLC,[iv] a company owned by Marian Ilitch of Detroit. Any future Long Island casino for the Shinnecock will be further squeezed by the new VLT parlors for Nassau and Suffolk OTB. The Shinnecock spent $440,000 on lobbying and Gateway Casino Resorts spent $281,000 since 2011
Genting: Although Genting has failed for now in its attempts to upgrade its Resorts World NY racino at Aqueduct in Queens into a full-scale casino, its related venture in the Catskills (Empire Resorts) has the inside track on winning a casino resort there. Genting spent a total of $3.3 million on lobbying and political contributions since 2011, including a $400,000 gift to the Committee to Save NY.
New York Gaming Association: The lobbying group for the racinos created in 2011 has a mixed result in the gambling deal. The Gaming Association lobbied for and won a tax rate for new casino slot machines that will be competitive with the racino rate, and Saratoga Raceway, Tioga Downs, and Empire Resorts look to be big winners. But other Gaming Association members Delaware North, Empire City, and Genting had negative or mixed results. The New York Gaming Association spent $3.6 million on lobbying and political contributions since 2011, including $2,000,000 to the Committee to Save New York.
National Gaming Companies (MGM Resorts, Caesars, Boyd Gaming, Wynn Resorts): The national gaming companies are looking forward to the legalization of full “Las Vegas” style casino gambling, with an interest primarily in New York City. Although the current deal prohibits such an endeavor for the next seven years, the issue will advance to a ballot referendum in the fall. Although it’s not a windfall, it’s a step forward as opposed to a step back. MGM Resorts spent $353,000 on lobbying, Caesars spent $202,000, Boyd spent $122,000, and Wynn spent $110,000. It will be interesting to see how these companies react to the legislation.
Horse Racing: Horse racing interests have been advocating for gambling to keep patrons coming to the track and help offset their declining attendance. Although Saratoga, Monticello, and Tioga race-tracks look set to be converted to full cacinos, the other six race-tracks appear to be shut out of the deal.