Cuomo Denies Gambling Group Funds Were Linked to Casino Push

A group closely tied to Governor Andrew Cuomo received a $2 million contribution from casino big wigs and gambling interests as he made his push to back of legalized gambling in New York, according to reports.

The New York Gaming Association, a lobbying group overseen by Genting and other gaming interests, donated to the a committee around the time the governor developed his plan to expand casinos, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The donation was made to business and trade union group Committee to Save New York in December when the group ran TV ads backing Cuomo around the same time, the New York Times reported:

The contributions went to the Committee to Save New York, a business and labor coalition that raised $17 million and spent nearly $12 million in 2011, much of it on campaign-style television and radio advertisements praising Mr. Cuomo and supporting his proposals to cap property taxes and slash state spending.

But the governor's office told NY Mag it flattly rejected that Cuomo was influenced by the gaming lobby.

"To try to suggest an improper relationship between the governor and gaming interests is to distort the facts in a malicious or reckless manner," said a spokesman.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the governor on Tuesday, saying "this is a guy who's not going to let taking money for public good get in the ways of doing what's right."

In July 2010, during his run for governor, Cuomo signaled his support for non-Indian casinos during an interview with the Times Herald-Record. The following year, the New York Times reported that Cuomo was open to lifting limits on gambling and signaled his support for casinos:

The governor said his administration was “actively” investigating whether full-scale commercial gambling should be legalized in the state, a move that would quite likely draw significant public disagreement but could offer huge financial benefits for the state and be a source of upstate jobs.

Last week, Cuomo said the proposal unveiled as a centerpiece of his State of the State speech isn't going forward, but he hopes to have developers compete next year for a project that could include a casino. Genting is one of the biggest gaming conglomerates in the world.

The governor faced criticism for signing a non-binding agreement with Genting ahead of his State of the State speech. The lack of transparency raised concerns among good government groups.

Now, he said world's top developers will soon compete to propose a convention center and casino in or close to New York City.

Associated Press contributed reporting