The casino company employing Gov. Hochul‘s husband spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying state officials, including “staff at the Office of Governor and Lt. Governor,” while she was lieutenant governor, records show.
Delaware North, a Buffalo-based gambling and hospitality giant where William Hochul Jr. serves as general counsel and senior vice president, paid New York lobbying shop Bolton-St. Johns more than $300,000 between 2019 and 2021 for lobbying services in Albany, according to a review of JCOPE filings by The Post.
William Hochul joined the company in 2016 after three decades as a federal prosecutor. His wife became Gov. Cuomo’s lieutenant in 2015.
In several instances Delaware North and its lobbyists engaged in “direct lobbying” of the “Executive Chamber/Staff of Office of Governor and Lt. Governor” in 2020 and 2021, a time when Kathy Hochul held the position, records show.
William Hochul has continued in his Delaware North job despite his wife’s ascension last week to the Governor’s mansion.
“[William Hochul] will not be involved in anything whatsoever to do with the State of New York. He will recuse himself from anything to do with New York State,” Hochul’s office told The Post.
Delaware North netted $3.7 billion in revenue in 2020 and employs 55,000 people, according to Forbes.
“Right now the state of New York is developing the rules for mobile gaming apps which is by far the most lucrative place where the industry is going,” John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany, told The Post. In April Gov. Cuomo signed a bill legalizing online sports betting. Just days ago, the New York State Gaming Commission approved a new set of regulations knocking out the last procedural hurdles to the plan.
In her new role, Gov. Hochul can appoint members of the New York State Gaming Commission.
Delaware North said it will not pursue a mobile-betting license, but it has huge interests in gaming and casinos, currently owning the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington, NY; and managing the Hamburg Gaming casino. It also has a $39 million agreement with the NY Thruway Authority to manage food and drinks at rest stops, records show.
“Neither Delaware North nor its lobbyists have ever lobbied the former-Lieutenant Governor or her staff on any matter on behalf of Delaware North,” a company spokeswoman told The Post, insisting that JCOPE “does not allow lobbyists to delineate between the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices” in filings.
A rep for JCOPE said the latter is not true and that its forms easily allow delineation of offices.
Though Gov. Hochul has promised a “new era of transparency,” her new executive chamber is shaping up to be one with deep lobbying ties.
The lion’s share of Delaware North filings from Bolton-St. Johns lists Michael Keogh as a lobbyist for the company. The longtime Bolton partner is married to Karen Persichilli, who this week became Gov. Hochul’s powerful new secretary.
Keogh’s name also pops up on several other six-figure gaming advocacy contracts for clients like Rivers Casino, Caesars Entertainment and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
Persichilli herself is no stranger to lobbying, spending more than five years as “head of state government relations” for JP Morgan Chase, according to her LinkedIn bio.
Gov. Hochul spent time as a lobbyist for M&T Bank in Buffalo after she left Congress in 2012, the Associated Press reported.
Hochul’s daughter-in-law, Christina Hochul, is director of federal policy at Biogen, according to her LinkedIn page. The pharmaceutical firm has spent at least $20,000 this year on state lobbyists.
“When Bolton-St Johns supported Delaware North, we never worked with Mr. Hochul, Mr. Keogh did not ever do work for Delaware North, and Bolton-St Johns’ contract ended with Delaware North in February 2021,” a company spokesman told The Post, saying Keogh’s name was only on the forms out of an abundance of caution.
A rep for Hochul said with respect to Persichilli that “recusals have been put in place to ensure that any New York State business relating to the Secretary’s spouse will be delegated.”
Kaehny said Hochul’s “ironclad policies” to ensure against conflicts in her administration should include independent oversight of gaming issues by either the state attorney general or the comptroller.
“The question really is one of sincerity. If Hochul truly wants what she called a new era and change in Albany culture, she has to lead by example,” Kaehny said.