Hochul’s Gaming Commission Pick Sparks Nepotism Debate

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The calm, routine appointments to state commissions seldom make headlines, but the elevated thrum of muscles primed for contention now reverberates through New York’s political corridors. Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent nod to name Marissa Shorenstein as part of the New York Gaming Commission has sent murmurs of nepotism skyward given Marissa’s lineage—she is the progeny of Stuart Shorenstein, a stalwart gaming lobbyist for Evolution Malta seeking to broaden the internet casino horizon in New York’s substantial market.

This link in a prominent family chain extending into the world of gaming legislation is potent. Stuart Shorenstein, a founding soul of Cozen O’Connor, has relationships entwined with entities like HBC-Saks Fifth Avenue, which itself has ambitious visions of transmuting spaces within its iconic Fifth Avenue establishment into an opulent casino experience reminiscent of the poised elegance seen in “Casino Royale.”

Striding along a path well trodden by New York’s political elite, Marissa Shorenstein commands respect for her ingrained presence within the governing echelons, having advised and guided communications for multiple Democratic administrations—Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and Governor David A. Paterson’s tenure, where she wove narratives as his Press Secretary and Deputy Communications Director, and more recently assisting Governor Hochul during her executive transition. Notably, Paterson himself bridges into the casino realm, having a hand in Las Vegas Sands’ aspirations for Nassau County.

The elderly walls of New York’s echelons whispered little of Shorenstein’s appointment last June, yet this quietude does not shield the governance from scrutiny. Those who discern New York’s need for novel revenue streams recognize the potential significance of Shorenstein’s seat at the NYGC amidst tenacious debates over internet casino legislation. While the NYGC’s remit dwells not with the direct determination of casino permit awardees, apprehensions loom over how such an appointment may tincture the Commission’s neutrality—especially when viewed through the lens of familial connections to the gaming industry.

NYGC Executive Director Lee Park lauds Shorenstein’s qualifications; assertions of nepotism, he claims, are mere theatrics. And yet, persistent disquiets claw for recognition, with accountability advocates like John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany marking the governor’s decision as glaringly problematic.

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