Rapper Jay-Z’s business dealings with a New York-based promotion company are under federal investigation over possible ethics violations.
Aqueduct Entertainment Group was awarded a multi-million dollar contract in January to upgrade the Aqueduct Race Track and turn it into a racetrack and casino, or “racino”. It would be the only one of its kind in New York City.
However Jay-Z’s seven percent stake in the group and friendship with New York Governor David Paterson have prompted federal officials to question whether their relationship played a part in Aqueduct receiving the contract.
Aqueduct representatives dismissed accusations that the racino contract came as a result of Jay-Z’s relationship with Paterson, saying Jay-Z bought his ownership stake in the company after the contract was awarded to it.
“Given Jay-Z’s superstardom and his long and deep connection to New York, the partners thought he could bring a unique perspective to shaping a facility that would truly be an entertainment destination,” Aqueduct spokesperson Jonathan Rosen told the New York Post. “The partners were looking to bring in someone who could bring marketing and community advice to the team.”
The deal has also drawn the ire of some of Jay-Z’s friends. Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons said he doesn’t believe Aqueduct was the best firm competing for the bid.
“Why didn’t the leadership just take the best deal for the people,” Simmons told the Post. “[Aqueduct’s proposal] just wasn't the best deal for New York…Can any of my dear friends in New York government tell me where and when did it all go wrong?”??Simmons said he preferred a bid of rival casino company Penn National Gaming, and believed Penn National offered the state the best return on the racino operation.
However, Simmons said in his preference for the rival Penn National bid, he wasn’t personally “knocking” Jay-Z .