Hard Rock eyes NYC casino license, supports Gov. Hochul's campaign

June 29, 2022

An executive from the Seminole Hard Rock casino has sent a brazen "pay to play" email asking coworkers to support New York governor Kathy Hochul's campaign for the 2022 gubernatorial election this November as the company is aiming to secure a license to run a casino in New York City.

If the donation is received, the explicit request for it could be interpreted as a quid pro quo, which is law enforcement jargon for bribery.

One government watchdog group said the blatant email attributed to a rep from the casino operator shows that the “New York government is for sale.”

According to NY Post, Reinvent Albany executive director John Kaehny said, “The perception is Gov. Hochul put out a sign that says, 'New York is for sale' It’s pay-to-play. That’s the way donors view it and the Hochul campaign is cashing in on that perception.”

Kaehny also said that the email sounds like a deal between them. They hope to get something in return for what they have given.

Hard Rock's internal investigation

In a statement to The Post on Tuesday, Hard Rock said it has started looking into what it says was an unauthorized email while also admitting that it held a big fundraiser for Hochul on June 20 at its new hotel in Times Square.

Not only that, but the company also said that on June 20th, Hard Rock held a fundraiser for Governor Hochul at the new Hard Rock Hotel in New York City. The President of Hard Rock Support Services sent out invitations to that event that their compliance lawyers had approved and didn't mention casinos or the licensing process for casinos in New York.

“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,” Hard Rock told the NY Post.

Donations to Hochul's campaign

A recent analysis of Hochul's $34 million campaign donations by the New York Times found that donors with ties to Hard Rock gave Hochul more than $100,000.

The chairman of Seminole Hard Rock 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 give $25,000 to be co-chairs for the Hochul campaign event. Seminole Hard Rock is in the running to work with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on a casino project next to Citi Field in Willets Point.

According to lobbying records, Seminole Hard Rock is also seeking the backing of Mayor Eric Adams. Lobbying records show that the firm's representatives met with Frank Carone, the mayor's chief of staff, not too long ago. Mets owner and runs leading hedge fund Cohen gave $1.5 million to a super PAC that backed Adams's successful campaign for City Hall last year.

Later this year, the state will start a competitive bidding process to give licenses for up to three casinos in the downstate area. These casinos could be in New York City or the surrounding suburbs.

Genting's Resorts World at Aqueduct race track and MGM's Empire City at Yonkers Raceway, which already has slot machines, are also trying to get a license to offer table games.

Jake
Jake Williams
Jake Williams is a sports gambling expert. He's been writing in the sports betting and DFS industry for over a decade. He specializes in MLB and NBA, along with College Basketball and College Football.