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Questionable Malaysian Gambling Co trying to buy changes in our NYS Constitution; “Genting” Islamic extremists in Malaysia; the unresolved Aqueduct Scandal; NY Lobbying still run amok, Democrat power-broker officials complicit; and Taxpayer dollars financing public pensions for private lobbying

July 19, 2011

Genting Casino In Florida (need to know background)

By Roger Stone
The Asian Gambling giant Genting stunned South Florida when they plunked down $263M for a choice piece of real estate owned by the Miami Herald Corporation on the assumption that Casino Gambling will be legalized in the Sunshine State in 2012 or 2013. One should not assume that Genting can be licensed if Florida adopts a vigorous Casino regulatory scheme.

Genting has financed two mega-billion dollar Native American Indian Casino deals in the US and violated Federal Indian law in both by taking usury interest rate payments from Tribes. In New York, Genting “bought” a contract to operate a casino at Aqueduct for an up-front payment of $250 million when the previous bidder got eliminated over public exposure of an illegal cabal involving the Governor and Senate Democrat Power-brokers to steer the contract to the favored vendor. New York conducted no due diligence as to the character or fitness of Genting. Genting’s other casino properties are all outside the US. The company has never gotten a casino operators license in the United States.

In fact, Genting and it’s inscrutable CEO KT Lim have made huge transfers to Islamic extremists in Malaysia. Sen. John McCain’s staff is well aware of Genting’s warts, having examined the Asian casino giant’s relationship with Indian tribes in Connecticut and New York.

Genting CEO KT Lim

 
TIMES UNION: Lobby dollars and a dream. Genting, remaking Aqueduct, spends freely on lobbyists in bid to change constitution. Genting, the Malaysian resorts and gambling company, envisions itself becoming rich in North America by changing the New York state constitution. The international gaming powerhouse, little-known in the United States, is planning to operate a Las Vegas-style casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, which is banned by the state constitution. Full story
 

Lobby dollars and a dream

Genting, remaking Aqueduct, spends freely on lobbyists in bid to change NYS Constitution
By JAMES M. ODATO Capitol bureau, Monday, June 27, 2011

ALBANY — Genting, the Malaysian resorts and gambling company, envisions itself becoming rich in North America by changing the New York state constitution.

The international gaming powerhouse, little-known in the United States, is planning to operate a Las Vegas-style casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, which is banned by the state constitution.

But Genting is spending about $1 million a year with lobbyists in Albany to make its dream of the Queens project a reality by amending the constitution.

Genting looks at the 5,000-machine video lottery terminal emporium it is building in South Ozone Park near JFK International Airport as a U.S. beachhead for much bigger things, according to numerous interviews with people in the gambling industry.

The Aqueduct project is named Resorts World Casino New York, even though it is a racino, only able to operate video lottery terminals (VLTs), which Genting executive “Colin” Fook Yew Au admitted last week aren’t as good as actual slot machines. “They’re not much better than VLTs, but still better,” Au told the state Franchise Oversight Board in a spirited appeal in which he argued against off-reservation tribal casino expansion and revealed a desire to build a convention center and hotel at Aqueduct.

Au did not discuss the big-picture plan of changing the state constitution, but a spokesman said Genting’s agenda includes “looking at a range of ways to further develop the Aqueduct site — a new convention center is one possible concept — to create more jobs and generate additional economic revenue for New York state.”

“We also firmly believe that racetrack casinos should be allowed to become fully commercial casinos,” the spokesman, Stefan Friedman, said. “Neither of these goals is easy to achieve, and we want to give ourselves the best chance of success.”

To that end, Genting, working with the newly formed New York Gaming Association, a coalition of VLT operators, is beginning to flex its considerable muscle in Albany to win a constitutional amendment that would allow racinos to convert to full-blown casinos, according to numerous interviews in recent weeks. Although the public disclosures on its lobbying forms don’t declare specifically what they’re up to, Genting has slowly built up a stable of influential lobbyists, paying one an extraordinary $35,000 a month in a town in which $10,000 is closer to the norm.

Four firms; former Senate GOP lawyer John Cordo, former Assembly Democrat communications director Patricia Lynch, veteran Queens lobbyist Brian Meara and former Republican Sen. Nicholas Spano are splitting more than $1 million in fees. They are walking the halls of the Capitol representing Genting’s interests, even though the Asian company has no legislation pending.

It’s all about building toward a positive vote early next year on a legislative resolution to change the constitution. A second passage of the resolution in the Legislature would have to follow in 2013 to put the proposition before voters in the November 2013 election, said James Featherstonhaugh, president of the New York Gaming Association, which represents all nine racino operators. Featherstonhaugh, a veteran lobbyist with a stake in the Saratoga harness track and VLT operation, said Genting is building a lobbying team to help push the NYGA agenda.

“They’re staffing up to get NYGA’s constitutional amendment,” he said. Genting actually has two votes on the NYGA board because it also has the controlling interest in Monticello Raceway, which, like the other racinos, has its own lobbying team. Featherstonhaugh said his group’s agenda and campaign will become fine-tuned soon after this session when NYGA will install an executive director, Michael Wilton, who has been a lobbyist with Patricia Lynch and Associates. Featherstonhaugh said Genting is “very aggressive.”

Such characteristics were on display before the Franchise Oversight Board, where Au said the state cannot allow tribes to set up off-reservation casinos in the Catskills or in Nassau County if they want the Aqueduct racino to stay open.

“The threat from the Indians are many,” Au said. “They can stay at their reservations, they have their rights. You should not let them encroach in the main metropolitan areas.” Later he told a reporter that the Shinnecock, on Long Island, should not be so greedy to want to build a casino outside of their reservation while they could probably do $200 million in business with an casino on their current territory.

Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business, said Genting’s plan has always been to make New York City a world-class casino destination. “This was really just a stepping stone; they’ve been interested in getting in the United States for some time,” he said. “I think this has been their plan all along, that once they got in there they would lobby for table games and a hotel.”

Recently, Genting purchased the Miami Herald building and grounds — 14 acres for $230 million — with the intention of building another resort as lobbyists pursue a change of Florida law to allow non-Indian casinos. Genting employs three lobbying firms in Florida to promote their plan, spending what would likely be as much as $300,000 on an annual basis based on Times Union calculations of the value of contracts. Their project in Miami will give them a leg up on other casinos companies should the laws change, said Gros. “Lobbyists shouldn’t have that power,” complained Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Sullivan County, who sees Genting as working against her county’s goals of obtaining a tribal casino and its own convention center. “It’s not fair. Money talks.”

Genting, with $5 billion in cash reserves, paid New York $380 million for the rights to build and operate at Aqueduct, blowing away competitors bidding on the same 30-year contract. The sum was seen as not commensurate with the potential return because VLT operators have to give so much of their betting revenues to the Division of the Lottery for public education funding.

A constitutional amendment in New York is a risky bet, but perhaps the state’s mood is shifting, said the Rev. Duane R. Motley, founder and senior lobbyist for New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which opposes gambling. He said the state Senate has become more moderate since the last time it dealt with the notion of a constitutional change allowing casinos. “I think they might put it out there to the people, but the people of New York have a history of voting down constitutional amendments; very few pass,” he said.

Funded with an ample supply of cash from Genting, the coalition seeking the change will likely develop a slick marketing campaign with TV ads talking about how gambling dollars and the jobs they can bring are being lost to neighboring states. It will come at a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be looking for ways to improve state revenues, an official with one of the participating lobbing firms said. Cordo, whose firm is hired for consulting and public relations services, was part of a team that promoted the $2.9 billion transportation bond act on the ballot six years ago which passed comfortably. He once worked for Featherstonhaugh, who has longstanding ties to the Cuomo family. An aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo was unsure of the governor’s stand on a constitutional change.

12-month contracts:

Cordo and Company, $25,000 per month amended to $35,000 a month in Febrary, amended to $30,000 a month in June

Patricia Lynch and Associates, $25,000 per month, starting June

Meara, Avella, Dickinson, $20,000 a month

Empire Strategic Planning Inc. (Nicholas Spano), $10,000 per month

 

Pension scandal nets two top Albany lobbyists

By JIMMY VIELKIND Capitol bureau, Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ALBANY — With three weeks left in his tenure as attorney general, Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo announced more settlements in his two-year investigation into the pay-to-play culture surrounding the state pension fund (aka the Hevesi scandal).

Patricia Lynch Associates, one of Albany’s most prominent lobbying firms, agreed to pay a $500,000 fine, while its founder, Patricia Lynch, agreed to a five-year ban on lobbying before the Office of the State Comptroller.

Neither Lynch nor her firm admitted to breaking any laws. Darren Dopp, a spokesman for and partner in the firm, said only, “We’re pleased to put the matter behind us.”

Lynch was a top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver, however, put distance between himself and Lynch in 2009 when Cuomo’s subpoenas of her firm were first reported.

Dopp on Wednesday refused to answer questions about how the ban and fine would affect PLA’s business. Federal officials filed a $580,000 lien against the firm in August. An analysis of 2009 data maintained by the Commission on Public Integrity, which oversees lobbying, showed PLA is the second-highest-grossing firm in the state, collecting over $8.4 million in annual fees.

Lobby firm faces tax lien

Records: Patricia Lynch Associates was behind on payroll taxes in 2009
By JIMMY VIELKIND Capitol bureau, Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ALBANY — One of the Capitol’s largest lobbying firms fell behind on its payroll taxes in 2009, court records show.

A lien was filed against Patricia Lynch Associates on Aug. 11, court records show, for $580,666 in unpaid federal payroll taxes. The firm is based around its eponymous principal, Patricia Lynch, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“There was an unexpected expense in the year 2009 and the matter is being resolved,” said Darren Dopp, a spokesman for the firm.

Lynch’s firm was reportedly among those subpoenaed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in April 2009 as part of an investigation into pay-to-play abuses at the state’s Common Retirement Fund under the stewardship of ex-Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Asked whether the unexpected expenses were related to legal defense, Dopp said, “You wouldn’t be wrong to reach that conclusion.”

The lien comes at a time when the firm was expanding. It opened an office in Panama in 2008 and was paid $8,415,694 to lobby state officials in 2009, according to records kept by the Public Integrity Commission. It ranks second behind the firm of Wilson Elser.

Lynch, a former director of communications to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, recently hired Dan Weiller, the speaker’s top spokesman.

 

You pay for it: Tax dollars help cover pensions for private lobbying

Taxpayer dollars help finance public pensions for private lobbying by governments of government A handful of nonprofit corporations, which for decades have carried the message of local municipalities and school districts to state lawmakers, have…
(such as Patricia Lynch Associatesmore »

 

NY continues to be a top state in need of lobbying reforms; Out of control – Lobbying was $213 million industry in 2010

It’s recession-proof, that’s for sure. Groups, companies and people spent over $213 million lobbying state government in 2010, crossing the $200 million threshold for the first time in history. There are around 20 million people in this…
(Patricia Lynch Associates, 2nd highest grossing lobbyist)  more »

 

 

Ball Asks Democrats: What About That AEG Probe?

Posted by: Joseph Spector – Jun 17, 2011

In a remarkable and brief exchange last night on the Senate floor, Sen. Greg Ball stood up as Senate Democrats raised questions about a tax abatement for a Long Island fire department that evolved into comments by Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, about corruption.

Ball asked: “Just one quick question: What is the status of the investigation into the Aqueduct gaming scandal, the multi-billion-dollar bid rigging scheme?”

Jaws dropped, and then the outspoken Republican from Putnam County asked again:

“On the topic: the multi-billion-dollar- bid rigging scheme and the Aqueduct scandal that still is unresolved?. Just a quick status update on that because I see tonight that you’ve raised your interest in corruption.”

Ball was talking about the probe started last year involving some Senate Democrats from New York City over allegations that they steered a lucrative gaming contract for Aqueduct Race Track in Queens to a politically connected firm, Aqueduct Entertainment Group. Adams was named in the report last year by then-Inspector General Joseph Fisch.

Ball’s questions were quickly knocked down by Adams and Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, Albany County, who rose to say that “this discussion is not relevant.”

On a related note, just so you know: 

 

Document drop: NYRA 2010, ’11 budgets

Posted on July 16, 2011 at 1:22 am by Casey Seiler, Capitol bureau chief

At long last, here are the New York Racing Association’s budget documents for 2010 and 2011 (the latter revised to reflect the demise of NYCOTB). The association announced earlier this week that it was dropping its lawsuit against the state Budget Division to block the release of the budgets, which NYRA claimed revealed proprietary information — but you can read that on every page of the 2011 packet.

Some topline numbers:

  • The 2011 budget, which was revised to reflect changes stemming from the closing of the New York City Off-Track Betting operation in December, showed that NYRA’s overall operating expenses are budgeted to rise 7.9 percent or $10.4 million in 2011.
  • Net revenue, however, is budgeted to drop 3.9 percent compared to 2010 — from $152 million to $146 million. The end result, the budget states, is a net loss of $11.6 million. According to its 2010 figures, NYRA lost almost $15 million.
  • NYRA’s salaries and wages are predicted to increase 5.2 percent, or $2.9 million.
  • One of the biggest drivers in the association’s personnel costs is a 27 percent increase in employee-related benefits (to $19.1 million) largely due to increases in NYRA-administered health plans.

The 2010 budget and the revised 2011 documents can be read here:

And this really makes you wonder, as it is related here, or in many other areas. 6 months in office and already raised (or being paid off?) $6 million!

Cuomo’s filing: $9.2 m on hand

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm by Rick Karlin, Capitol bureau

It’s campaign filing day and here is the filing from the Cuomo campaign:

Opening Balance: $4,176,120.01

Total Receipts: $6,220,328.49

Total Expenses: $1,173,188.49

Total On Hand (End of Period): $9,223,260.01

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