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Silvia Pavlof January 23, 2024 3 min read
NY Gaming Commission Appointment Sparks Concerns over Potential Conflicts
Marissa Shorenstein, who previously served as the head of Governor Hochul's transition team, will now play a key role in overseeing and regulating the state's gaming industry
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed Marissa Shorenstein, daughter of prominent gambling lobbyist Stuart Shorenstein, to the New York Gaming Commission, sparking concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
Gaming Industry Watchdogs Question Shorenstein’s Board Appointment
Stuart Shorenstein has a long history as an active lobbyist and advisor to various gaming firms, with his current clientele including the Swedish internet gambling giant Evolution Malta. Evolution Malta is actively advocating for the legalization of online betting in New York, adding a layer of complexity to Marissa Shorenstein’s appointment, reported The New York Post.
Critics argue that the decision to appoint Shorenstein to the board overseeing the gaming industry is inappropriate and raises red flags about potential conflicts of interest.
John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany, a government accountability group, remarked that it was a head shaker and described the decision to appoint Shorenstein to something directly related to her father’s job as absurd.
According to Kaehny, there were numerous boards and commissions the governor could have appointed Shorenstein to, making the choice to place her in a position that raises red flags appear incomprehensible.
Government watchdogs emphasize the need for impartiality and transparency in such regulatory bodies, particularly when dealing with issues related to the gaming industry. The concern is that Shorenstein’s position may be influenced by her father’s connections, potentially compromising the integrity of the regulatory process.
New York Gaming Commission Addresses Controversy Surrounding Shorenstein’s Role
While Gov. Hochul’s office and Marissa Shorenstein have declined direct comment on the matter, a spokesperson for the New York Gaming Commission defended the appointment.
Lee Park, the commission’s deputy executive director, conveyed that Marissa Shorenstein is a highly-qualified individual with decades of leadership in the public and private sector, consistently adhering to the highest ethical standards. He expressed his opinion that it was shameful for anonymous critics to make sensational allegations.
The New York Gaming Commission asserted that it has implemented robust policies and procedures for recusals, and Shorenstein has already recused herself from cases involving her father and his lobbying firm.
Furthermore, the commission clarified that appointees, including Shorenstein, will not be making decisions on awarding casino licenses in the downstate region, leaving that task to an Independent Gaming Facility Location Board.
Meanwhile, despite optimistic expectations, Gov. Kathy Hochul‘s recently announced $233 billion FY 2025 Budget surprisingly omitted any mention of online gambling, casting doubt on the possibility of its legalization this year. Despite the absence from the budget, lawmakers may still debate the legalization of online gambling, especially with Sen. Joseph Addabbo introducing Senate Bill 8185, proposing the legalization of both online lottery and iGaming activities, complete with a 30.5% tax on gross gaming revenue for operators.