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Gambling Group Donation Linked to Gov. Cuomo's Push for Casino Expansion

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A $2 million contribution in early December 2011 from The New York Gaming Association (NYGA), headed by Genting and other gambling interests, to the Committee to Save New York (CSNY), a powerful lobbying group that backs New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's causes, has sparked controversy over the governor's push to expand gaming in the state.

The business and trade union group CSNY spent $12 million in 2011 to support Cuomo-endorsed initiatives, reported New York Magazine. The majority of the money funded campaign-style television and radio advertisements heralding Cuomo and his proposals, The New York Timesreported.

Interestingly, NYGA—lead by Genting, the Malaysia-based multinational corporation and worldwide leader in casino development—donated the large sum of money right before Cuomo started advocating to build commercial casinos in the state. That December, Cuomo announced his support for a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in the state. Then on January 4, in his second State of the State speech, Cuomo unveiled his ambitious plan to generate jobs by rebuilding the state’s aging infrastructure and developing a mainstream casino industry, including the bold proposal to build a Genting-financed convention center and casino at the Aqueduct race track in Queens.

On June 1, Cuomo announced the plans with Genting were scrapped, WNYC reported. Since the Genting deal collapsed, on June 4, Cuomo said casino developers would compete to propose a convention center and casino in or nearby New York City. The announcement came around the same time that news broke of NYGA's monetary contributions to CSNY.

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The CSNY and the Cuomo Administration insist the $2 million donation had no impact on Cuomo suddenly championing casino gambling in the state. “To try to suggest an improper relationship between the governor and gaming interests is to distort the facts in a malicious or reckless manner," said a spokesman for the governor's office.

But James Featherstonhaugh, president of the NYGA, is not defending their claims.

"It was my understanding that [the Committee to Save New York was] going to be somewhat supportive of the general concept of the expansion of gaming ... Otherwise, we wouldn't have done it," Featherstonhaugh told The Wall Street Journal.