Bloomberg defends Cuomo directing gambling-industry money to a pro-Cuomo group

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg today defended Andrew Cuomo's direction of gambling-industry funds to a group that supports his agenda.

"The governor's trying to get some private money to give a message," said Bloomberg, who spent more than $100 million of his own money on his last re-election campaign, following a press conference about soda and obesity. "I'm totally sympathetic in how difficult it is to get your message out."

Today, several papers reported that the New York Gaming Association, which represents the state's nine racinos, in December donated $2 million to the Committee to Save New York, a pro-Cuomo lobbying group.

One lobbyist told the Wall Street Journal that about a fifth of that donation came from Genting, the Malaysian gambling giant that was seeking to build a $4 billion convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. (On Friday, the governor announced that state talks with Genting had fallen apart.)

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From the Times story: 

Genting and the association considered a major advertising campaign to back their efforts. But, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, the Cuomo administration encouraged the companies to contribute to the committee instead, effectively putting the gambling industry’s cash behind the committee’s promotion of Mr. Cuomo’s agenda.

Right around the same time, the governor wrote an op-ed in support of expanding casino gambling in New York State, something Genting had been lobbying hard for.

Then, in the book accompanying his state of the state address, he mentioned Genting by name and endorsed its proposal to build the convention center in Queens.

Since then, Albany has passed the first of the two legislative approvals required to amend the constitution and make table gaming legal in New York State. (The constitution also requires a voter referendum.)

The mayor today said Cuomo was just trying to improve his messaging.

"Keep in mind, the press, who we depend on, sometimes has their own agendas," said Bloomberg.  "They have a business to run and there's certain kind of news which are very important to society, but it doesn't sell newspapers, or inches and minutes, is the way I describe it. And the governor's got that interest. And, this is a guy who's not gonna let taking money for the public good get in the ways of doing what's right."