N.Y. casinos: Follow the money

June 5, 2012 2:00 am

Casino gambling was not high on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda when he ran for governor in 2010. But just as Cuomo ramped up his support for casinos last year, a group closely allied with the governor received $2 million from gambling interests, according to a report in The New York Times.

The New York Gaming Association funneled $2 million from gambling interests to the Committee to Save New York, a business and labor coalition that spent nearly $12 million last year mostly on campaign-style television and radio advertisements praising Cuomo and supporting his policy initiatives, according to The Times. The money from the gaming association came just as Cuomo rolled out his proposal to change the state constitution in order to allow up to seven commercial casinos in New York.

A spokesman for Cuomo denied that the money had any influence on the governor’s proposal. “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 to The Times.

In other words, the river of money from the casino industry was just a coincidence. More like a lucky bet.

The donations from the casino industry appear to make it the second biggest donor to the Committee to Save New York. (Not to be confused with the Committee For the Re-Election of the President, or CREEP, the organization at the center of the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard M. Nixon.)

According to The Times, the association gave $1.5 million to the Committee to Save New York on Dec. 1 and $500,000 on Dec. 6. On Dec. 4, Cuomo published an op-ed article saying that he favored expanded casino gambling in New York.

Then guess what happened? “Within days, the Committee to Save New York also adopted the issue, adding legalized gambling to its list of priorities for the 2011 legislative session,” The Times wrote. Blackjack.

In January, Cuomo used his State of the State speech to call for the constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling and proposed a deal with Genting, a Malaysian-based casino giant, to build a destination casino resort that would include the nation’s largest convention center near its Aqueduct race track. Last week, Cuomo said the deal with Genting had collapsed, largely because it could not be guaranteed exclusive casino rights in New York City.

When it comes to casinos, lawmakers like to talk about jobs. But it is really the influence of casino money that does all of the talking.