Minority New York Politicians Send Letters in Support of Sharpton Ally’s Casino Bid
Several of New York’s most famous minority-group politicians, including U.S. Representative Charles Wrangel and State Assemblyman Karim Camara, sent a letter to the New York Gaming Commission last week expressing their preferences in the coming casino license announcement. The men gave their support to Greenetrack, a lesser-known Alabama-baed gaming operator with ties to Reverend Al Sharpton.
Luther Winn, the president of Greenetrack, sits on the board of the National Action Network, Rev. Al Sharpton’s not-for-profit civil rights organization. Greenetrack is the only minority-owned gaming company among the 16 different companies seeking a gaming license in New York. Its proposed development project is to build the Grand Hudson Casino, but it faces stiff competition from several other nationwide and international gaming companies.
Decision on 4 Licenses This Fall
A siting panel appointed by the State Gaming Commission is set to announced up to four licenses to build casinos in New York state this fall. According to the New York Daily News, the letter from Charles Wrangel said, “We strongly believe that the Grand Hudson Casino project will improve the quality of life and transform whole communities for people in the Hudson Valley region.” The letter was co-signed by Representative Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from Queens.
Camara Group Sends Letter
On the same day, a similarly-worded letter from Democrat Karim Camara of Brooklyn was sent to the Gaming Commission. That letter was signed by 6 lawmakers in all, including Keith Wright of Manhattan and Crystal Peoples-Stokes of Assembly District 141 (including Buffalo). Peoples-Stokes is personal friends with Governor Andrew Cuomo.
New York Minority Policies
The timing of the letters appears calculated to provide maximum pressure on officials. Just this last week, Governor Cuomo announced that the state would take extra measures to assure state officials give full consideration to minorities. Coming on the heels of such an announcement, the letters should turn the pressure up on the siting panel members.
An anonymous rival bidder to the Greenetrack proposal was asked whether they believed the letters would have an impact and they replied, “Should it have an impact? Not if we are doing this free of politics. Will it have an impact? Probably.”
Gaming Commission Will Refer to Letters
When Lee Park, a Gaming Commission spokesman, was asked about the letters, he would not characterize the impact they would have. Lee said, “All correspondence is being preserved, catalogued, and provided to the Gaming Facility Location Board members for their review and consideration.”
Al Sharpton Had No Role
The prominent lawmakers were asked whether Al Sharpton had a hand in the sending of such letters. Karim Camara said Sharpton had no role in his decision. Instead, Camara’s knowledge of the Greenetrack proposal had impressed him. Camara said, “They have a track record as a minority company for helping minority communities with disproportionate numbers of people who are jobless, chronically unemployed.”
Charles Wrangel, the elder statemen among those who sent letters to the Commission, declined to give a comment on his motivations. Gregory Meeks, who co-signed Wrangel’s letter, told the press his role “was rooted in my full and continued support of Minority Business Enterprises (MBE).”
When a Decision Is Expected
No time table has been set for when the casino license decisions will be made. Much speculation suggests that decisions will be announced in mid-to-late November. It would not be surprising to see an announcement anytime after the mid-term elections on November 3. Announcing before the election would allow one more potentially controversial issue to be discussed. Also, politicians in campaign mode might want campaign contributions, and gaming companies wanting to hedge their bets might be willing to offer donations, for the sake of goodwill when the big decision is announced. Such is the way of the American electoral system.
No wagers are being taken on which bids will win. In this blogger’s experience following the gambling industry, the biggest bidder tends to win–all things being equal. That might seem simplistic or cynical, depending on one’s interpretation, but it follows sound logic. A bigger project bid means more money pumped into the local economy, more jobs for construction workers, and a more attractive casino to attract customers to the area. More money tends to means the casino will be bigger and staff more employees, which is certain to have some effect on the decision makers. With such ideas in mind, the $1.5 billion bid by Genting Limited on the Orange County license seems to be in the best position to win.
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