Kentucky race draws Yung’s $$$

Feb 5, 2008 6:43 AM

Embattled William Yung, whose Columbia Sussex Corp. owns the Tropicana Hotel/Casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, as well as other casinos, has been identified as the biggest financial thorn in former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s failed bid for re-election.

Fletcher strongly opposed the expansion of gambling in the Bluegrass State while his opponent, now Gov. Steve Beshear vowed to push casino legislation.

According to a financial report filed with the Internal Revenue Service last week, Yung contributed $1 million to the Bluegrass Freedom Fund which provided television ads blasting Fletcher’s anti-gambling position.

The news reportedly caused an angry reaction among the state’s gambling opponents.

"There is the very real possibility that this governor has been bought and paid for," said Kent Ostrander, head of the Kentucky Family Foundation, a Christian group that opposes casinos. "Our concern is that the governor might be listening only to the gambling industry and those who have contributed to his campaign."

Yung’s entry into the gaming business has been less than stellar, noted opponents who cited the fact that his Atlantic City license has been revoked by the New Jersey gaming regulators. They ordered the Tropicana gambling operation be conducted by an appointed official while a buyer is sought for the property.

In Las Vegas, the company’s operation of the Tropicana Hotel/Casino on The Strip, has been under review of members of the Nevada Gaming Control Board because of the New Jersey action and local allegations of mismanagement

Meanwhile, Yung’s Tropicana Entertainment LLC is being sued for $960 million by a group of bondholders who charged that his "gross mismanagement" had devalued the company.