"What's black and white and read all over?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Posted 10:24 PM by

Don't believe the hype, or much else in Slotsylvania

Gaming Control Board chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo ColinsWell, that "noisy debate" at Tuesday's state budget hearing turned out to be a bit of a bust, with the most friction occurring between two lawmakers and not with the head of the state Gaming Control Board.

State Rep. Douglas Reichley (R-Lehigh county) tried to grill board chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins at length about why she and other board members approved a license for now-indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.

But Reichley was shut down after about 15 minutes by House Budget Committee Majority Chairman Dwight Evans (D-Philly) for going off topic during the House's first public budget hearing of the year.

Evans said he has asked the House Gaming Oversight to hold hearings on Mt. Airy's licensing and suggested that would be a better forum for Reichley's questions. More on that in a bit.

The real news today is that DeNaples, a Dunmore billionaire, asked a Dauphin County court judge to dismiss the perjury charges against him, arguing in a court filing that:

  • Prosecutors never proved that statements Louis A. DeNaples made to state gambling investigators were false. (I thought that was the whole purpose of a trial? It apparently was enough to convince a grand jury.)

  • Dauphin County prosecutors gave inadequate instructions for the grand jury to understand the legal requirements for a perjury charge.

  • DeNaples was never questioned about some of the occurrences that prosecutors say help prove that he lied about the extent of his relationships with two reputed mobsters and two Philly political fixers.

  • Some lines of questioning by state Gaming Control Board investigators were so vague that DeNaples' answers could not prove that he lied.

"The charges are simply not supported by the facts, and we are confident that Mr. DeNaples will be proven innocent," DeNaples' defense attorney, Richard A. Sprague, said in a statement. Sprague has also asked the state Supreme Court to intervene in the case.

However, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico countered that he believes DeNaples knowingly lied in response to clear questions, and the grand jury understood his testimony amounted to perjury. "The merits of this case will speak for themselves," Marsico told the Associated Press.

The charges allege that DeNaples lied about his mob ties while being interviewed for his slots parlor license and later in testimony before the grand jury. He has denied any wrong-doing but has been legally barred from both his casino and a bank he built until the charges are resolved.

Part of the case rests on FBI wiretaps that caught DeNaples talking to some of the men. The G-men alerted the state police to what they found, but neither the staties nor the Feds would reveal what they knew to the Gaming Control Board before DeNaples got his license.

No one actually used DeNaples' name at Tuesday's budget hearing, as if saying his name in front of TV cameras might make them burst into flames. Instead, they referred to him only by proxy by naming his $412 million Mount Airy Casino Resort.

During the hearing, Reichley pointed to letters dating as far back as Feb. 16, 2006, in which law enforcement authorities repeatedly warning the gambling regulators they could not share what they knew about DeNaples before he was granted his slots parlor license in December 2006. DeNaples opened Mount Airy in October 2007.

The letters also stated that the board's privately hired investigators had no right to use the FBI's National Crime Information Center computer system in its background checks for slots parlor applicants, Reichley said.

Colins, the board's chairwoman and a former Philly judge, admitted there is "a real tension" between law enforcement and gambling regulators, but insisted the state Criminal History Record Information Act "doesn't prevent acknowledging that an investigation is going on."

She suggested one possible future remedy may be to have a judge review all information the state police have on an applicant in secret, and then he or she could advise the gaming board whether there is reason to withhold an applicant's slots parlor license.

As I said, Evans cut off questions, saying he has asked state Rep. Harold James, majority chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, to hold hearings into Mount Airy's licensing.

Reichley won't hold his breath waiting. "I do not believe Chairman Evans' attempt to shield Chairperson Colins from questions is helping to restore faith in the Gaming Control Board's integrity, and House Democratic leadership must be held accountable for this," he said in a press release after the budget hearing.

James (D-Philadelphia) has refused to move any reform-minded slots legislation out of his committee in more than a year. James was also one of only 20 representatives to vote against Senate Bill 862, which in part barred lawmakers from owning a piece of any slots parlor. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate and passed the House, 180-20, on March 14, 2006. It was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell on Nov. 1, 2006.

He did hold a hearing at Mount Airy on Dec. 6, 2007, but only to examine the operation and the economic and social impact of Mount Airy Casino Resort on the surrounding communities. DeNaples was indicted less than two months later.

James has received 337 political contributions since Jan. 1, 2000, but none are directly from gambling interests, state records show.

He did, however, receive a total of $5,000 in three contributions from the campaign committee of then-state Rep. Mike Veon (D-Beaver County), an outspoken advocate for gambling expansion in the state. The three payments in 2000 and 2002 made Veon one of James' largest contributors over the years.

I recorded Tuesday's budget hearing and placed Reichley's exchanges with Colins and Evans on That site limits video file sizes to 10 minutes, so I had to cut into two files. You can view them below.


For more about Louis DeNaples and to read my complete take on this long-predicted Slotsylvania snafu, click here.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

 |  0 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
The Daily Rant by Dave Ralis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.