Nassau Community College Won’t Lobby for Sands Casino

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Nassau Community College is paying a lobbying firm, but that doesn’t mean the educational institution will push New York lawmakers to approve a gaming license for Las Vegas Sands at Nassau Hub.

An artist’s rendering of Las Vegas Sands’ Long casino plan. Nassau Community College isn’t lobbying for the casino, but is supportive of the effort. (Image: Las Vegas Sands)

State lobbying records indicate the junior college hired Shenker Russo & Clark, LLP last year at a rate of $5,000 per month and recently renewed its contract with the firm. The initial agreement called for the Albany-based law firm to lobby on behalf of the college on issues such as education, funding, and casino gaming.

(Shenker Russo & Clark, LLP should) focus its efforts on the State budget and any other general legislation as it affects the College for the purpose of improving the educational experience for the students and the College Community,” according to the terms of the original contract.

Las Vegas Sands, the largest gaming company by market capitalization, is hoping to build a $6 billion casino hotel at the site of Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Despite some controversy surrounding that effort, the LVS bid is widely viewed as one of the most credible in downstate casino competition.

Nassau Community College Taking Different Approach than Hofstra

In an interview with Newsday, Jerry Kornbluth, a spokesman for the college, said the institution has not asked Shenker Russo & Clark to lobby on behalf of the school as it relates to the casino project, adding that Sands is likely doing its own lobbying.

Even without direct lobbying efforts, the community college is on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to the Sands casino plan than is Hofstra University. Hofstra is stridently opposed to the casino plan and has filed suit against Nassau County, alleging the county violated environmental review and opening meeting laws in its lease transfer agreement with Sands.

So chippy has that relationship become that in February, former Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) — now a Sands lobbyist — said Hofstra barred him from speaking at the school at which he earned his law degree. The following month, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R) leveled allegations of collusion against Hofstra, claiming representatives of the school may have endeavored to help New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International, the bidders for a Queens casino license.

Hofstra has denied those claims, though the school has made clear it’s not opposed to New York City-area casinos. It just doesn’t want one near campus. For its part, Nassau Community College isn’t engaging in such flaps and its support of the LVS plan is reasonable when accounting for the school’s large budget deficit.

Nassau Community College Could Benefit from Casino

While Nassau Community College isn’t directly lobbying on the Long Island casino plan, the school has something to gain if Sands wins a gaming license or something to lose if that doesn’t happen.

In January 2023, the gaming company said it will use the school as its training facility. That public-private arrangement could be a jobs creator and revenue generator for the school.

The partnership between the casino operator and the community college could spark the creation of related course fares, including classes focusing on casino and hotel management, security, culinary programs, and meetings and banquets, among others.

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