New York Governor-designate Kathy Hochul (D) is set to assume the office of disgraced Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 24. She will soon oversee nearly all state-run agencies, including the New York State Gaming Commission.
When Lt. Gov. Hochul becomes the state’s top government official — and New York’s first female governor — she says her husband, William “Bill” Hochul, will retain his job at Delaware North, one of the largest gaming and hospitality firms in the United States.
Mr. Hochul is a former federal prosecutor who was hired by Delaware North in 2016 as its senior vice president and general counsel. The privately held company — owned by New York’s powerful Jacobs family — operates gaming in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and in its home state.
Delaware North said in a statement that Mrs. Hochul’s succession to the governor’s office has no bearing on Mr. Hochul’s role within the organization. However, safeguards are being put in place.
Delaware North is implementing additional restrictions on Mr. Hochul’s interaction with the company’s business activities in New York state in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest that could be claimed to exist by virtue of the governor’s private interests deriving from Mr. Hochul’s employment by Delaware North,” the company said.
“Effective immediately, Mr. Hochul will be precluded from involvement in matters relating to business conducted by Delaware North in New York state in which a New York state government official, department or agency is, or potentially could be, engaged,” Delaware North added.
Hochul is being handed much more power in pivoting from lieutenant governor to governor. When she assumes office she will oversee the New York State Gaming Commission. The commission is currently reviewing applications from gaming entities interested in operating sports betting in the state.
Delaware North owns and operates two gaming facilities upstate — Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack and Hamburg Gaming at Buffalo Raceway. Both offer guests video lottery terminals (VLTs). Delaware North additionally handles hospitality services at various state-owned properties, including rest stops on the New York State Thruway, Niagara Falls State Park, and the two upstate airports.
In total, the New York State Comptroller’s Office says Delaware North has more than $49.6 million in open contracts with the state.
Advocates Recommend Change
With so much business at stake, and Bill Hochul set to become New York’s first gentleman, some are calling for him to step down from his Delaware North position.
The conflict of interest exists as long as Bill Hochul is getting paid from this company with such extensive business before the state,” opined Robert Galbraith, senior research analyst at the Public Accountability Initiative. “The decision to carry this blatant conflict of interest into the Governor’s Office is an ignominious start for Kathy Hochul’s administration.”
Lt. Gov. Hochul says the concerns are nothing new.
“People should realize that Bill has been a public servant for 30 years,” Mrs. Hochul said of her husband’s time as a federal prosecutor. “And throughout our 37 years of married life, we’ve both had careers, and we have developed a very strong internal ethics among ourselves about not being involved or discussing each other’s professional work.”
Not enough, says John Kaehny, executive director of the political watchdog Reinvent Albany. Kaehny specifically took issue with New York prepping to issue coveted sports betting licenses, and the fact that Delaware North is one of the state’s biggest political lobbying spenders.
“It’s billions of dollars in gambling activity that New York State regulators have to approve,” Kaehny told Gothamist. “Hochul’s husband is actively in a role where he and his firm are lobbying the state of New York for permission to do more gambling business.”
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