Did Hard Rock Exec Send Email Asking for Hochul Donations?

Hard Rock hosted a fundraiser at its Times Square hotel on June 20. Proceeds benefited the campaign of New York Governor Kathy Hochul (l.). An email was sent to clients and customers asking for her endorsement, but the company does not know who sent it.

An unnamed Hard Rock executive emailed clients, customers, and contacts suggesting they send donations to New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s reelection campaign. It comes at a time when Hard Rock is all in when it comes to securing a license for a New York City area casino.

The email, reads, in part:

“As we prepare for the final stretch of our process for the third New York City casino license, Seminole Hard Rock ask that you consider the attached reception event and donation. … Hoping we can count on your support for Governor Kathy Hochul and Happy Father’s Day!”

In the June 28 issue of the New York Post, Hard Rock had this to say in response:

“Hard Rock hosted a fundraising event for Gov. Hochul on June 20th at the new Hard Rock Hotel in New York City. Participants were invited to that event via invitation that was approved by our compliance attorneys and sent by the President of Hard Rock Support Services with no reference to a casino or casino licensing process in New York,” the company said. “With regard to the alleged other e-mail, Hard Rock International takes these allegations very seriously and immediately initiated an internal investigation to determine whether anyone in our organization violated company policies related to political contributions.”

The New York Times reported that people connected to Hard Rock had given Hochul more than $100,000. Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen gave $25,000 to Hochul on June 20, the Times reported.

PlayNY reported in May that Hard Rock was in the mix for a potential partnership with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on a city casino project next to Citi Field.

For her part, Hochul said, “As governor, it’s my responsibility to be open-minded to all of these options right now, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

One thing to note is that the Citi Field casino project could face serious local opposition given the public parkland involved.

It is also interesting that the email referred to the third New York City casino license. That coincides with the common wisdom that the video lottery terminal operator MGM Empire City and Resorts World in Queens are heavy favorites for the first two licenses.