In an article published Wednesday about some campaign donors defecting from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, The Wall Street Journal quoted a former donor to Cuomo who claimed the governor strong-armed him and other racetrack operators in 2011.
Jeff Gural, head of GFP Real Estate and owner of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, told the Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind that members of the New York Gaming Association, like himself, were asked to donate $2 million to the Committee to Save New York, a group that supported Cuomo’s agenda.
After the Gaming Association declined, the members received letters from the former director of the New York State Lottery, stating “racetrack licenses are not an ongoing entitlement and could be rebid."
At that point, the members of Gaming Association cut a check for $2 million to the Committee to Save New York.
Cuomo’s spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, called the allegations baseless.
“No one here has any idea what he’s talking about and you should call Howard Glaser," Azzopardi said. "What I do know is that virtually every year he has lobbied for a taxpayer-funded bailout of his casino, and he’s lashing out because his amendments to sports betting — which would have lined his own pockets — failed. Rather than repeat decade-old gossip, maybe reporters should look into that.”
When Gural was asked by Capital Tonight whether he was angry about the state’s decision-making around sports betting, he said yes.
“One hundred percent. For once, Rich Azzopardi is telling the truth. I was furious with the way it went," Gural said. "The fact of the matter is I’ve invested $200 million into depressed areas of upstate New York. And now, all of a sudden, just when there was a chance for me to make a profit, the governor comes out with a ridiculous statement that says, ‘why should the casinos make a profit? Let’s let the state take all the money.' What governor does that?"
According to Gural, this is personal. The source of the governor’s antipathy toward him stems from statements Gural made about gaming licenses in 2011.
“Between you and I? The only reason he did it, is that he’s pissed off at me because I said something he didn’t like to the press," Gural said. "And I can tell you what it was: That when the Southern Tier licenses were auctioned off, they rigged it so that I didn’t get the license,” Gural explained. “They gave the license to Del Lago in the northern tier, and it was rigged. And the governor knows it was rigged, and only when they did a second round did I get the license. And the only reason I got the license is that no one else bid.”
Gural also alleged that the same people who were in charge of gaming in 2011 are still there.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they rigged the selection of online sports betting. They run a criminal enterprise up there,” he said.
When asked if he could prove his allegations, Gural reiterated his claims about the rigged bid around casino licensing.
“I can prove that they rigged the first round of the site selection. I can prove that they rigged it so that I didn’t win. That’s pretty bad,” he said. “And the governor found out about it. I can’t say that he orchestrated it. But he found out about it, and you’d think he would replace the people who were involved in rigging it.”
Gural also claimed the New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica was involved in the decision to create a sports betting model similar to the state lottery.
“Gaming commissions are supposed to be above reproach. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in New York," he said. "And I can tell you, just look at who the lobbyists for Draft Kings are. They are all friends of Rob Mujica’s. If you ask anyone in the industry if they think the way this state is doing [sports betting] is going to be successful, you won’t find a single person who says yes."
In a second statement to Capital Tonight, Rich Azzopardi sent following:
“Site selection was a 100% independent process. He should stop lying, quit making baseless accusations and admit that he's upset because our sports betting bill benefited New Yorkers instead of lining his own pockets. Most of all, he's just embarrassing himself.”