By the numbers
Spending on lobbyists:
David Flaum of Flaum Management: $211,925
Capital District Off-Track Betting Corp.: $41,826
Rush Street Gaming LLC: $15,230
Saratoga Harness Racing Inc.: $423,200
David Flaum of Flaum Management: $149,060
James Featherstonhaugh of Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne LLP: $138,599
Galesi Group: $45,515
Michael Malik: $16,150
Emil Galasso: $1,500
Source: New York Public Interest Research Group and New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics
Casino bidders spent $11 million over the past two years on campaign donations and lobbying efforts, according to a report released Monday by the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Companies pursuing casinos in upstate New York spent $6.7 million on lobbying campaigns and $4.3 million in campaign donations — on the state and local level — in 2012 and 2013.
“The governor and the Legislature have created a new class of people willing to spend money to influence the political process,” said Bill Mahoney, research coordinator for NYPIRG. “These companies are spending all of this money because they think there is some advantage in doing so.”
Rush Street Gaming, the Chicago-based casino operator proposing Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, spent $15,230 on lobbying. Rush is working with the Galesi Group on the project slated for the former Alco site between Erie Boulevard and the Mohawk River.
The Galesi Group, based in Rotterdam, provided $45,515 in campaign donations through LLCs such as 797 Broadway Group, Rotterdam Ventures and Scotia Industrial Park Inc.
Rush is also teaming with James Featherstonhaugh, a minority owner of Saratoga Casino and Raceway, on another casino project — which would double the price and size of the Schenectady proposal — in Newburgh, Orange County. At the same time, Featherstonhaugh is competing against Rush with his bid for a casino in East Greenbush, Capital View Casino & Resort. Featherstonhaugh contributed $138,599 to campaigns and Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. made an additional $423,200 in donations.
David Flaum of Rochester-based Flaum Management, who is pursuing a casino at de Laet’s Landing in the city of Rensselaer, spent $211,925 on lobbying. Hard Rock International is partnering on the project with Capital District Off-Track Betting Corp., which spent $41,826 on lobbying.
Flaum also provided $149,060 in campaign donations over the past two years, according to the report. Like Galesi, Flaum made the contributions through LLCs including 2250 Brighton-Henrietta and Onondaga Galleries.
In Cobleskill, Howe Caverns owner Emil Galasso is teaming with Michigan casino developer Michael Malik for a proposed casino at the tourist attraction. Galasso made $1,500 in donations, while Malik gave $16,150. Galasso also retained lobbying firm Park Strategies LLC in April for consulting services on government relations, corporate development, strategic planning and public relations.
“One of the things we found is that a number of these casino bidders are signing new contracts and getting politically involved for the first time,” Mahoney said. “More of these companies are getting involved, and that makes it likely there will be an increase in donations moving forward in 2014.”
In the first two months of this year, casino companies spent more than $500,000 on lobbying efforts, the report said. That includes $30,426 from Rush Street Gaming, $17,743 from Capital OTB and $15,852 from David Flaum.
Five sites in the Capital Region — Amsterdam, Cobleskill, East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady — are being proposed for a casino. Casino sites are also being pitched in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier. Four casino licenses will be awarded among the three regions in the fall.
The report says entities are only required to detail lobbying activities if the municipalities have a population of more than 50,000, but the only area proposed for a casino that is above that threshold is Schenectady, with about 66,000 residents.