In a move that has raised eyebrows and sparked concerns about potential conflicts of interest, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed Marissa Shorenstein, daughter of prominent gambling lobbyist Stuart Shorenstein, to the New York Gaming Commission. 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, which is actively advocating for the legalization of online betting in New York.
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, described the decision as absurd, emphasizing that there were numerous other 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 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.
In response to the controversy, a spokesperson for the New York Gaming Commission defended the appointment, stating that Marissa Shorenstein is a highly-qualified individual with decades of leadership in the public and private sectors, consistently adhering to the highest ethical standards. The spokesperson also emphasized that the commission has implemented robust policies and procedures for recusals, and Shorenstein has already recused herself from cases involving her father and his lobbying firm.
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. However, 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.