Casino News

NY Gov. Kathy Hochul Causes Gambling Controversy

New York is in the process of expanding its land-based casino scene, but it is Gov. Kathy Hochul who steals the headlines. The governor has caused a gambling controversy by appointing Marissa Shorenstein as commissioner of the New York State Gaming Commission. Ms. Shorenstein is the daughter of Stuart Shorenstein, an active lobbyist and adviser to gaming companies.

Ms. Shorenstein had previously served as head of the governor’s transition team when Ms. Hochul took over the position of governor. In addition to that, she was also a press secretary for former Gov. David Paterson and is currently Chief External Officer at BSE. This makes her more than qualified for the commissioner position, but it has certainly stirred the pot in the state.

Some Find the Appointment Questionable

John Kaehny, executive director of the nonprofit government accountability and transparency group Reinvent Albany said the appointment is a head shaker. He raised questions about assigning Ms. Shorenstein to something directly related to her father’s job, as the governor could have appointed her to plenty of boards and commissions.

Stuart Shorenstein is the co-founder of the lobbying firm Cozen O’Connor, and he also represents HBC-Saks Fifth Avenue, which is also pursuing a downstate casino license in New York. However, Lee Park, Deputy Executive Director for NYSGC, defended the new appointment and said that the connection to her father would not create a conflict of interest.

Mr. Park continued by saying that Ms. Shorenstein is a highly qualified individual with decades of leadership and experience in the public and private sectors, and who has always played by the highest ethical standards on the gaming commission. He added that it is shameful that anonymous critics are making these allegations against her.

NYSGC touts strict protocols as they relate to recusals such as conflicts of interest are found. Ms. Shorenstein insists she is transparent and forthcoming about her family affairs. According to the commission, she has already recused herself from sitting in on cases involving her father and his lobbying firm. Additionally, the commission is not responsible for awarding the casino licenses.

Responsibility Tasked to GFLB

As mentioned, the commission will not be responsible for selecting the winners for the full-scale commercial licenses, as the responsibility has been bestowed on the Gaming Facility Location Board. In early 2023, the board kicked off the initial Request for Applications, allowing interested parties to submit their proposals for a casino for review by the panel.

GFLB reported that applicants must agree to invest at least US$500 million in their respective casino bid, while also paying another US$500 million in licensing fees to the state. Provided that their bid is approved. Winning applications will have a time scale for their initial license period, which will be 10 years, which is rumoured to be extendable.