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UPDATE: Political contribution ban appears to be gone

A compromise bill to site four upstate casinos doesn't appear to have the strict regulation of political contributions that was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's initial proposal.

New York Public Interest Research Group's Bill Mahoney highlighted the change in a tweet, noting how an initial ban on political contributions from any person or business entity applying for or holding a casino license went missing. The final compromise doesn't include a section 1347, which in the initial bill included the political contribution ban.

"New Yorkers can now expect the flood of casino donations we have seen in recent years become a torrent of special interest money designed to influence our elected officials," Mahoney said of the change.

According to campaign finance filings from last summer, the New York Gaming Association, which represents the state's nine racinos, gave thousands to local state legisaltors. The group also gave $2 million last summer to the Committee to Save New York, which supports the governor's agenda.

The change was noticed on a day that Common Cause NY highlighted the political contributions in the gambling industry.

During the state Senate debate, Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, asked why the ban was missing. Regarding a ban on political contributions, Sen. John Bonacic, R-Catskills, said it was taken out because of free-speech issues. “You run into constitutional problems," he said.

Krueger later responded that the bill failed to do anything about potential corruption problems.

I don't think this issue was discussed during the Assembly's debate.

The initial proposal's political contribution ban was touted by the governor as part of an effort at preventing corruption. His press release on June 5 said, "Licensed Destination Resorts and Destination Resort applicants will be banned from making political contributions to statewide elected officials, the State legislature, and local officeholders in municipalities and counties where Destination Resorts are located and candidates for these positions."

Cuomo's press release on the compromise bill only mentioned a state gaming inspector general’s position when highlighting corruption prevention tools.

Before the Senate began dealing with the casino bill, they passed an amendment that struck out a reference to banning political contributions in the bill. "Political contributions from the casino industry will be minimized to reduce the potential of political corruption from casinos," was the only remaining reference to initial proposal, but it had no enforcement in the final bill and is completely gone with this amendment.

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