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New York Casino Process Edges Forward

The casino process continues moving forward in New York State. The New York Public Interest Research Group is out with a paper indicating that casino interests have poured millions of dollars into advancing their agendas in Albany over the past two years. NYPIRG Research Co-ordinator Bill Mahoney:   "Our analysis of casino bidders and some of the groups and individuals they're working with found that they've spent nearly 11 million dollars in the past two years either lobbying or making campaign contributions to political committees in New York State.  It does seem that by creating this new interest group, Governor Cuomo and the state legislature have created a bonanza of special interest money of a new sort that hasn't been involved in New York Politics before."

The NYPIRG report prompted the group Residents of East Greenbush Opposed to a Casino to issue a call to the Governor and his appointees at the Gaming Facility Location Board to respond to concerns over undue influence of casino lobbying contributions.  Group spokesperson Cara Benson:  "What's most troubling about this report is that many of the players are not even named. We know that they gave two million dollars to Cuomo already. How else could a bid for a casino next to a girl scout camp, two schools, and facing strong resident opposition still be in the running? We'd like to know."

NYPIRG Casino Money

The Cuomo administration did not return a call for comment.   NYPIRG's Mahoney notes that a lot of spending by the new groups is "probably flying under the radar."  He added:   "Under New York State law, you don't need to report how much money you're spending to influence local governments with fewer than 50,000 people. A lot of these casinos are being sited in these communities. So we don't know the full picture - it's probably impossible to know how much money is really being spent to buy access and influence because a lot of this money is going to build projects in smaller communities in New York State."

According to the report, 15 of the 16 municipalities that have proposed sites for casinos have populations that fall below that 50,000 resident qualifier.

Meantime,The New York State Gaming Commission has appointed attorney Dennis E. Glazer and Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law to the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, rounding out the five-member body responsible for evaluating casino applications and making selections of who is eligible to apply for a commercial gaming license in New York State. 

Glazer and Law join Paul Francis, Stuart Rabinowitz and Bill Thompson on the Board.

Glazer is a lawyer and retired partner at the firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, where he specialized in corporate law. His wife, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, resigned in 2013 as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's appointed head of the State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Law is the president of the Long Island Association, a business organization. He co-chairs the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and formerly led the Long Island Power Authority.

Gaming Facility Location Board members must reside outside of the eligible casino zones.  The Gaming Commission envisions four casinos in upstate New York, with at least one but no more than two in the Capital District, the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.  The Gaming Facility Location Board is tasked with selecting the four winning projects this fall.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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