A major company in the legal sports betting industry has entered the conversation that surrounds the close race for governor of New York.
The New York Post reported last week that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign received $25,000 contributions each from DraftKings CEO Jason Robins; his wife, Shannon Robins; and Stanton Dodge, the chief legal officer of the company.
Political opponents of Democrat Hochul, who is locked in a close race with Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, have made accusations for several weeks that she has been involved in “pay to play” schemes. In response to the news of the DraftKings-connected trio’s sizable contributions, a Zeldin staffer quipped on Twitter that it was a “bad bet.”
— Ben Weiner (@bencweiner) November 2, 2022
The Post, which has a media bias rating from AllSides.com of “lean right,” listed the DraftKings contributions among its examples of individuals and businesses that rely on state contracts and tax breaks and have contributed to Hochul’s campaign — which will conclude with Tuesday’s election. New York hasn’t elected a Republican governor since picking George Pataki in 1994, and Hochul has maintained a major advantage in fundraising throughout the election.
“Kathy Hochul put a giant for-sale sign on New York State’s Capitol, so of course special interests are rushing in to protect the status quo,” New York Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy told the Post.
Casino projects under discussion
James Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden and the Knicks and Rangers, also is cited as a major Hochul donor in the Post story, along with architect Aleksandra Chancy, whose consulting business has contracted with the state on major projects.
While Zeldin’s campaign raised roughly half of the record $45 million Hochul’s campaign had collected as of late October, it has gotten major contributions from conservative mega-donors, including Estée Lauder heir Ronald Lauder, who donated nearly $10 million to pro-Zeldin groups.
Hochul’s administration has been viewed as friendlier to gambling interests than that of predecessor Andrew Cuomo, who had a somewhat frosty relationship with the industry, particularly when it came to pushing for high tax rates and a limited number of licenses for mobile sports betting. New York has nine licensed mobile sportsbook operators, each of which pays 51% of its gross gaming revenue to the state, the highest such tax rate in the nation.
According to the New York State Board of Elections website, Robins also donated $11,800 in August to the reelection campaign of Democratic state Sen. Joe Addabbo, chairman of the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee.
The gaming commission is preparing to hear proposals for three New York City-area casino sites in the coming weeks. The fee payable to the state for such licenses starts at $1 billion.
In June, an executive of the Florida Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock International, one of the entities that has expressed interest in landing one of the licenses, reportedly sent out an internal email soliciting campaign contributions for Hochul. Seminole Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen gave $25,000 to the Hochul campaign on June 20.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, too, has added to his campaign war chest through gambling industry connections. In 2021, Mets owner Steve Cohen, who has pushed for a casino near the team’s Citi Field home, gave $500,000 to Adams’ campaign.