New York politician Carmen Arroyo recently submitted an ethical disclosure stating she won nearly $30,000 on a penny slot machine at a casino in Saratoga Springs. Even though the assemblywoman was able to produce a photograph of herself in front of the winning slot machine at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway in New York, some believe she is lying about the origin of the money. The winning incident supposedly happened some time in 2012, though the precise date has not been disclosed by Arroyo. The assemblywoman claims herself to be nothing more than a lucky lady, but since her proclamation, critics have been sniffing around Arroyo's tracks, suspecting foul play.
Who is Carmen Arroyo?
Arroyo was elected to her New York assemblywoman position in 1994. The New York Assembly is responsible for the legislation of some policies in the state. As her position knows no term limits, Arroyo continues to work as an assemblywoman today, almost 20 years after her initial election. She was the first woman of Puerto Rican descent to be elected to such a political position in New York.
In 1966, before she won the title of assemblywoman, Arroyo formed the South Bronx Action Group, a charitable organization that provides housing, employment, and educational assistance to New Yorkers in need. Arroyo formed this group based on her own personal knowledge of what it is like to struggle as a single mother in New York.
Arroyo suffered her share of personal hardships early on in life. While still living in Puerto Rico, she gave birth to seven children, only to be abandoned by her husband and the father of her children. She moved to the U.S. in 1964 hoping to find better opportunities for herself and her family, but the language barrier and general American prejudice against Hispanics initially worked against her. Determined to forge a better life for herself and her children, Arroyo enrolled in English classes and became active in the New York political scene almost immediately.
Why Critics Doubt the Legitimacy of Arroyo's Winnings
In spite of her charitable track record, critics have expressed the suspicion that Arroyo's so-called jackpot may have come from a less-than-upstanding source. Several reasons exist for this:
- Arroyo and one of her children, council woman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, have been affiliated with the mishandling of government money in the past. Specifically, Arroyo's daughter is thought to have taken slush fund tax payer dollars and contributed them to a charity run by family member Richard Izquierdo. Izquierdo is the councilwoman's nephew and the assemblywoman's grandson.
- Izquierdo was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for applying the said money to his nonprofit organization, the South Bronx Community Corp. Under the guise of the charity, the cash was allegedly used to fund flights for Arroyo and her daughter to Puerto Rico and other vacation destinations, as well as new flooring for Arroyo's office.
- Arroyo has never been a gambler. For the politician to make an uncharacteristic trip to a casino and subsequently win a fortune seems unlikely in the eyes of some, even though photographic evidence to the contrary has been supplied to the media by Arroyo herself.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway: A New York Racino
Saratoga Casino and Raceway officials have not commented on the photo. The facility, located in Saratoga Springs, New York, is a modest building with 1,700 slot machines, standard table game options, and a horse racing track. A facility that combines casino gaming with horse racing is known in New York as a "racino". Currently, the state has nine racinos and no full-fledged casinos. In the photo Arroyo provided as evidence of her win, the assemblywoman is seen with several friends in front of a bank of the racino's Hot Shot Progressive slot machines.
Arroyo claims that her visit to the racino was a one-time venture, that she isn't a regular gambler or a even closet gambler. If Arroyo did indeed visit Saratoga for a bit of gaming, it wouldn't be the first time a high profile celebrity has confessed to playing with money for fun. Other politicians and celebrities have provided the media with a rich supply of gambling stories as well.
Notable Gambling Politicians and Celebrities
Maureen O'Connor, a former mayor of San Diego, became so entrenched in her gambling addiction that she is estimated to have lost $1 billion to casinos over the course of her lifetime. As if this weren't scandalous enough, some of the money lost by O'Connor came straight from the coffers of her late husband's charity, the R.P. Foundation.
Former U.S. presidential candidate John McCain is said to have a passion for, and possibly an addiction to, the game of craps. According to Time magazine, McCain has been spotted playing the game in Las Vegas, the Caribbean, various Native American casinos, and aboard Mississippi riverboats. He is said to be a high-stakes gambler, often heading for craps tables with exorbitant minimum bet requirements.
Actor Ben Affleck wagered $60,000 on a hand of blackjack one evening at a Las Vegas casino and won. The Hollywood star reportedly walked away from the table with an $800,000 profit in his pocket. Since then, rumors have surfaced that the actor has become quite fond of online poker, and that his wagers and losses add up to tens of thousands of dollars per night.
Mayor Cuomo Pushes for Vegas-Style Casinos in NY
The landscape of gambling in New York may soon be changing, granting even more opportunities for casino gamblers. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently revealed his plan for the construction of three Vegas-style casinos in the state. Up until now, racinos such as the one Arroyo claims to have visited have been the only gambling options available on federal soil in the state.
If Cuomo gets his way, folks like Arroyo, McCain, and Affleck will soon find even more gambling locations in the Big Apple from which to choose.