Why Bruce Blakeman is starting to cast doubt

With help from Shawn Ness

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said he has concerns the integrity of the state's downstate casino bidding process could be tainted.

IS IT RIGGED?: Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman is laying the groundwork to claim the bidding process for the three wildly lucrative casino licenses could be skewed against him.

“We’re moving ahead with our plans for a casino, and if it’s a fair process — and I’m a little concerned about it — but if it’s a fair process. Nassau County gets that license because we are the best location,” the County Executive said last week while calling into “Sid & Friends in the Morning,” a right-leaning radio show.

After reiterating the decision is in the hands of a state board, he added, “if it’s a fair process we win.”

The comments are the first that Playbook’s ever heard the Republican cast doubt on the integrity of an extremely scrutinized and public bidding process for New York’s downstate casino licenses.

But questions have already been raised that the bid for a massive casino on Long Island could be especially vulnerable, given Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s control over the Gaming Commission. That’s because the majority owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation is GOP megadonor Miriam Adelson, who — along with her late husband — donated $90 million to a pro-Trump super PAC during the previous presidential election.

She’s not the only Trump donor vying for a casino.

Earlier this week, Mets owner and billionaire Steve Cohen’s casino dreams were all but crushed by state Sen. Jessica Ramos after she came out against the bid. Cohen’s army of lobbyists were working to put a massive casino and hotel in the parking lot next to Citi Field, but the proposed site is located on state-controlled parkland that needs approval from the state Legislature to switch use.

And a bid by the Bally’s Corporation for a casino on the Bronx golf course formerly known as Trump Links also needs a similar parkland alienation bill. Playbook can report that Assemblymember Gary Pretlow, a Mount Vernon Democrat who chairs the lower chamber’s gaming committee, has introduced a parkland alienation bill for Bally’s.

“What we’re trying to do is have the assumption that every [bid] is good, until they’re proven they aren’t,” Pretlow told Playbook. “So we want to have the community boards issued and we want to have land issues solved.”

Curiously, neither the Senate’s gaming chair, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, nor any of his colleagues in the Senate have introduced the necessary equivalent bill. State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez, whose district includes the golf course, told us she is still weighing the merits of introducing any parkland alienation bill this session.

Blakeman, for his part, has said that the Sands project would bring a $5 billion investment into Nassau County and claims it would likely be the highest grossing casino in the nation. Plans for the casino, which would be located at the site of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, are currently stalled, though, after neighboring Hofstra University successfully sued to void the lease between Las Vegas Sands and the county.

When Playbook reached out to Blakeman, the county executive declined to go into specifics about his “concerns” about the fairness of the bidding process.

“Of course we’re concerned that it’s a level playing field and that politics aren’t part of the process,” Blakeman said, obliquely referring to “gossip” he didn’t want to expound upon.

“When you’re talking about as much money as is involved in issuing a license,” he added, “you want to make sure that there’s honesty and integrity in the process without political bias.” — Jason Beeferman

Assemblymember Scott Bendett was ordered to undergo sensitivity training by the Assembly's Ethics Committee after “made two statements related to religion and national origin

ASSEMBLYMEMBER FACES ETHICS ACTION: The Assembly’s Ethics Committee has taken action against Scott Bendett.

The freshman Republican “made two statements related to religion and national origin to an international intern,” the committee concluded. “Given Member Bendett’s sincere remorse and honest, active, and forthcoming participation in the process, coupled with the current highly emotional climate related to international strife,” the committee has ordered him to undergo sensitivity training.

It’s only the second action taken against a sitting member of the Assembly in the past six years. The committee ordered Democrat Danny O’Donnell to be retrained in the Assembly’s harassment policy following remarks he made last year.

Bendett is a top target for Democrats this November. His district, which includes suburbs to the south and east of the city of Albany, favored Joe Biden in 2020. Democrats Chloe Pierce and Kent Sopris are running in a primary for their party’s nomination to challenge him. — Bill Mahoney

FIGHTING REVENGE PORN: State lawmakers want to expand New York’s law combating revenge porn.

A bill being considered in the final week of the legislative session is meant to strengthen the initial 2019 provision that created criminal penalties for the non-consensual release of intimate images and videos.

State Sen. Monica Martinez, a Long Island Democrat, wants to include an expansion that would criminalize the threat of disseminating that material as well.

“The threat of releasing compromising personal content can be just as psychologically damaging to a victim as the act itself,” Martinez said in a statement. “This enhancement of the law will better protect New Yorkers from the perpetrator who attempts to use shame as an instrument of coercion.”

The bill was previously approved in the Senate, but is yet to be approved in the Assembly. Lawmakers in that chamber have been hesitant to embrace an expansion of criminal penalties. Nick Reisman

ACTION ON HEALTH ACT: A resolution endorsing the “goals” of the New York Health Act — a bill creating a single-payer health care plan to provide universal coverage in the state — was approved for the time by the state Democratic Committee at this week’s convention.

The resolution also called on the governor and Legislature to “expedite legislative solutions” to ensure full health care coverage for all New Yorkers.

The vote is symbolic. But supporters of the measure hope it will provide a jolt of momentum for the New York Health Act, which dates back decades and has struggled to win widespread support among Democrats amid opposition from the state’s powerful public-sector unions.

The bill was reintroduced in July 2023 by Health Committee Chairs Assemblymember Amy Paulin and state Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

“This resolution unifies the Democratic party in the goal of passing the New York Health Act, the only legislation that offers comprehensive healthcare to every New Yorker without barriers to care,” said Melanie D’Arrigo, executive director of the Campaign for New York Health and a former Democratic Congressional candidate.

State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs told Playbook the measure was approved “understanding there are complex issues to be determined” given the opposition from key constituencies like labor.

But Jacobs can point to areas of clearer agreement for Democrats at its two-day state convention: A resolution that condemned antisemitism in the wake of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at college campuses across the country that have created a political headache for Democrats in an election year was also approved.

“The fact that it was unanimous speaks volumes to where Democrats stand on this issue,” Jacobs said. Maya Kaufman and Nick Reisman

— HOCHUL’S BIG BUFFALO BILLS PROBLEM: An ethics watchdog agency has subpoenaed the Empire State Development for records related to the use of the state-owned “I Love New York” suite at the Buffalo Bills’ stadium which has been enjoyed by top state lawmakers. (NY Focus)

— CALL IT A COMEBACK: The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that an appellate court was too quick to throw out the NRA’s claims. Even Democratic justices, like Sonia Sotomayor, who routinely sided against the NRA, changed things up and voted in their favor. (POLITICO)

—  TRUMP’S TESTIMONY: Donald Trump said he wanted to testify during his hush money trial. But it was too little too late, and he didn’t want to get hit with a potential perjury charge. (Daily News)

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