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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Posted 10:22 PM by

Out of control board keeps the quarters rolling in Slotsylvania

Former Shippensburg University President Anthony Ceddia was named the new trustee for Louis DeNaples casino Tuesday without a public process and despite campaign contributions to both a member of the state Gaming Control Board and its chief spokesman.It's more important that Slotsylvania keeps the quarters flowing into Louis DeNaples' one-arm bandits in the Poconos than it is for the state Gaming Control Board and lawmakers to fix their rigged and broken slots parlor licensing system.

The control board put expediency and profit above the public good yet again Tuesday by naming a trustee to run DeNaples' $412 million slots parlor - who has political ties to both a board member and the PGCB's chief spokesman - without any public process for $300 to $800 an hour.

The board also continued its order barring DeNaples from his own casino and its profit as long as he remains under indictment for allegedly lying about his mob ties.

But board members didn't move to revoke DeNaples' $50 million license fee, didn't change their licensing process, didn't impose a mortatorium on granting new slots parlor licenses and didn't publicly disclose their connections (direct or indirect) to DeNaples and other slots parlor applicants.

But fittingly on Fat Tuesday the board did say, "Laissez les bons euros rouler!" Let the good dollars roll.

"We've not jeopardized the jobs of 900 Pennsylvanians, we're keeping the revenue flowing and we have protected ... the facility from any taint from contact from Mr. DeNaples," board Chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins told reporters after the two-hour hearing in Harrisburg.

So glad the judge has her priorities straight. Colins was appointed to the board twice by Gov. Ed Rendell, who accepted at least $115,000 in campaign contributions from DeNaples.

She was to be the featured speaker at the fourth annual Pennsylvania Gaming Conference on Feb. 25 and 26 in Harrisburg, but withdrew after the CEO of the event's sponsor, Fred Gushin of Spectrum Gaming Group of New Jersey, openly criticized the board's licensing process way back in September.

At that time, Gushin told The Morning Call of Allentown that the control board's licensing of applicants was "an overtly political process instead of an exercise in regulatory control. It was a disaster in the making."

However, DeNaples' lawyer, Richard Sprague of Philadelphia, told reporters after Tuesday's hearing, "The bottom line here is the state police wants to take over the investigative work for the gaming board and they have used DeNaples as a scapegoat to try to say the gaming board's staff did not do a good job."

During the hearing, former Shippensberg University President Anthony F. Ceddia was named the new trustee of DeNaples' casino without any public debate or public application process - proving once more that the control board is out of control.

Board members first contacted Ceddia weeks ago, before DeNaples' indictment was announced, Colins told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He will be paid between $300 and $800 an hour.

Ceddia has contributed a total of $1,850 to several political campaigns since Jan. 1, 2000 - including $950 to former state Rep. Jeff Coy, according to state records.

Coy was named to his $145,000 a year post as one of seven gaming board members in 2004 by House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese.

Ceddia also gave $150 to the failed state House campaign of Doug Harbach in 2004. Harbach was named the control board's communications director in January 2007 replacing Nick Hays, a former deputy communications director for Rendell.

I couldn't find Harbach's salary online but in a Parade Magazine article in May entitled "Is gambling good for America?" Harbach admitted that he was initially against slots gambling when he ran for state representative.

"I went door-to-door, and people kept saying, 'Doug, what can you do about our taxes?' I got off my moral high horse. If people go into that casino and pull that lever, and some of the money goes to help taxpayers, then I'm for it," Harbach said then.

On Sunday, however, Harbach defended the control board's lavish spending on travel and state-leased cars in an article in Sunday's Evening Sun of Getttysburg.

During Tuesday's hearing, Coy sought assurances from Mount Airy's chief executive, Joseph D'Amato, that he would obey the agency's directives and run Mount Airy with integrity and free from the influence of DeNaples, the Associated Press reported.

"Yes sir, I pledge that. I do that not only for myself, but all my employees that I have and my management team," D'Amato responded. "We will comply with not only the letter, but the spirit of the directives given to us."

None of this is meant in offense to Ceddia, a bank director, who seems trustworthy - at least according to his resume, which is posted on the Morning Call's Web site, and a posting about him on the Shippensburg University's educational foundation site.

It will now be his job to serve as an intermediary between the board and the casino's executives in order to keep the dollars flowing into state coffers.

"Since it opened on Oct. 22, 2007, Mount Airy has generated nearly $40 million in revenue and $21.7 million in tax revenue to the Commonwealth from slot machine play," a board press release says.


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

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