Nassau College’s Advocacy Firm Plays Neutral in Sands Casino Project

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Nassau Community College may be working with the lobbying firm Shenker Russo & Clark, LLP, but that does not imply any direct efforts on the college’s part to influence local New York lawmakers to grant a gaming license to Las Vegas Sands for a proposed complex at Nassau Hub.

Documents revealing state lobbying activities have disclosed that Nassau Community College recruited the services of the Albany-based law firm Shenker Russo & Clark last year, for a contracted fee of $5,000 monthly. As part of the agreement with the college, the firm was to represent its interests on a broad range of issues including education, funding, and even casino gaming.

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According to the framework of the agreement, the legal firm’s primary role was “to concentrate its efforts on the State budget and any other general legislation impacting the College, with a goal of enhancing the educational experience for the students as well as the College Community.”

While the college was embarking on this new professional relationship, Las Vegas Sands, the most prominent gaming company when considered in terms of market capitalization, was laying its foundation for an ambitious plan: a $6 billion casino-hotel project on the grounds of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Despite various controversies dotting the journey of this ambitious plan, the LVS project proposal is considered to be one of the most plausible contenders in the downstate casino completion.

In examining the spectrum of sentiments regarding the proposed Sands casino, Nassau Community College finds itself on a different side from that of Hofstra University. Jerry Kornbluth, the spokesperson for Nassau Community College, in a discussion with Newsday, clarified that Shenker Russo & Clark was not specifically requested to support the school in matters concerning the casino project. He further argued that Sands was qualified to represent its own interests.

While Nassau Community College has not indicated any direct lobbying efforts, Hofstra University, on the other hand, firmly opposes the casino plan. They’ve even filed a lawsuit against Nassau County, alleging that the county breached the environmental review and public meeting laws in finalizing their lease transfer agreement with Sands.

The tussle between the two institutions reached a head when former Gov. David Paterson, currently a lobbyist for Sands, accused Hofstra of preventing him from speaking at the campus where he earned his law degree. Subsequently, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman accused Hofstra of collusion, suggesting that the school might have conspired to assist the New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International, who were vying for a casino license in Queens.

Yet, while it remains uninvolved in these disputes, Nassau Community College’s support for the LVS plan could be seen as a pragmatic move, given its considerable budget shortfall.

Despite not lobbying for the Long Island Casino plan directly, there might be potential gains for Nassau Community College should Las Vegas Sands secure a gaming license. In January 2023, the gaming behemoth announced its intentions to utilize the college as a training ground, a move that could lead to job creation and an increase in revenue for the institution.

This potential collaboration between the casino and the college could pave the way for curriculum enhancements, such as courses in casino and hotel management, security, culinary arts, and events management among other fields.