“Hard Rock, eyeing casino license, put chips behind Hochul”
An executive from Seminole Hard Rock casino reportedly sent a brazen “pay to play” email solicitation urging associates to put their chips behind Kathy Hochul’s campaign to be elected governor — as the firm makes an aggressive push to win a license to operate a gambling parlor in New York City.
“Team, as we prepare for the final stretch of our process for the third New York City casino license, Seminole Hard Rock ask that you consider the attached reception event and donation. … Hoping we can count on your support for Governor Kathy Hochul and Happy Father’s Day!” said the recent email from the Hard Rock honcho, according to the gaming blog playny.com.
Explicitly asking for donations in exchange for a particular government action could be construed as a quid pro quo, or bribery in law enforcement parlance, if consummated.
“They’re throwing a lot of money around and clearly trying to get Hochul’s attention,” a casino industry source said of Hard Rock.
One government watchdog group said the blatant email attributed to a rep from the casino operator shows that “New York government is for sale.”
“The perception is Gov. Hochul put out a sign that that says, `New York is for sale,’” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “It’s pay to play. That’s the way donors view it and the Hochul campaign is cashing in on that perception.
“The email reads like a quid pro quo. They’re expecting to get something in return for their contributions,” added Kaehny.
Hard Rock, in a statement to The Post Tuesday, said it has launched an investigation into what it claims was an unauthorized email while acknowledging it hosted a big fundraising bash for Hochul on June 20 at its new hotel in Times Square.
“Hard Rock hosted a fundraising event for Gov. Hochul on June 20th at the new Hard Rock Hotel in New York City. Participants were invited to that event via invitation that was approved by our compliance attorneys and sent by the President of Hard Rock Support Services with no reference to a casino or casino licensing process in New York,” the company said.
“With regard to the alleged other e-mail, Hard Rock International takes these allegations very seriously and immediately initiated an internal investigation to determine whether anyone in our organization violated company policies related to political contributions.”
Donors connected to Hard Rock have given Hochul more than $100,000 in donations this election cycle, according to a NY Times recent analysis of Hochul’s $34 million in campaign donations
Seminole Hard Rock chairman Jim Allen gave $25,000 to Hochul on June 20 — the day of the fundraiser and the date listed in the email.
Other donors were asked to kick in $25,000 to be a co-chairs for the Hochul campaign event.
Seminole Hard Rock is said to be a contender for a potential partnership with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen for a casino project next to Citi Field in Willets Point.
Lobbying records also show that Seminole Hard Rock is seeking support from Mayor Eric Adams.
The firm’s reps recently met with Frank Carone, the mayor’s chief of staff, lobbying records show.
Cohen, the Mets owner and hedge fund mogul, donated $1.5 million last year to a super PAC that backed Adams’s successful campaign for City Hall.
The state later this year will open a competitive bidding process to award licenses for up to three casinos in the downstate region that could be sited in the the Big Apple and /or the surrounding suburbs.
Two existing slots parlors, Genting’s Resorts World at Aqueduct race track and MGM’s Empire City at Yonkers Raceway, also are vying for a license to offer table games.
The state is expected to receive $500 million from casino operators per license.
The Hochul campaign declined comment.
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