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Sunday, June 11, 2006
Posted 11:15 PM by

DeNaples: A shy, charitable billionaire felon

The richest man in Northeastern Pennsylvania predicts the state will have seven full casinos, including table games, within two years.

Louis DeNaples, who says he has never gambled, became a billionaire building on the scraps others threw away. He forsees full casino gambling in Pennsylvania within two years and wants a piece of the action.An interesting series of stories ran today in the Scranton Times-Tribune detailing the life and financial times of Dunmore businessman and slots hopeful Louis DeNaples.

One story, "From wrecks to riches," traces his climb from being the being the ninth child of an impoverished Scranton PennDOT worker to the possibly Northeastern Pennsylvania's richest person thanks to salvaging auto parts from junked cars.

DeNaples, 65, now reportedly has a net worth of $1.5 billion, owns, operates or has an interest in more than 200 companies, directly employs about 600 people, and is the largest landowner in Lackawanna County and one of the largest in the region.

He is also one of two applicants for a slots machine license in the Poconos. He purchased the former Mount Airy Lodge and plans to spend about $360 million developing it into a casino.

This from a guy who claims never to have gambled, not even on a lottery ticket.

But he knows an opportunity when he sees one, and DeNaples is predicting that "within two years" the state will be licensing table games in addition to slot machines.

It will issue seven casino licenses - five standalones and two for resorts," DeNaples told the newspaper. He sees an industry easily netting $1 billion in gross revenues and does not anticipate that any other licenses will be issued.

And he's pulling out all stops to come out on top.

Asked why he has reportedly given more than $1 million to the state's top politicians between 2000 and 2005, DeNaples said, "It's more like building a customer base and spreading goodwill. It's business."

In "DeNaples: mob links simply don't add up," the newspaper details his federal felony record and alleged ties to organized crime.

DeNaples pleaded no contest to felony fraud in 1978 after a federal jury could not reach a verdict on charges he tried to defraud the government out of $525,000 in the wake of Tropical Storm Agnes. He received a suspended sentence.

In 1990, the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission reported James Osticco, underboss of the Buffalino crime family, bribed the husband of a juror to hold out for acquittal in the trial.

DeNaples blames it all on bad recordkeeping by Lackawanna County in the months after the storm left the region inundated and said, "Aside from the flood thing, you won't find so much as a parking ticket."

As for those who believe he has unproven ties to the mob, DeNaples said, "What am I going to do? Am I going to argue with them? Fight with them? Sue them? There's nothing I can do about them. I just give it to God and let him deal with them. That's all I can do.

"Look, I'm 65 years old. I don't need the money. Do you think for one minute that I would stick my neck out and put my personal name on an application, send it to the gaming commission, knowing the kind of questions they'll ask, knowing the background checks. ... If I thought I had a problem, do you think that I would do that?

"Why would I be that dumb?"

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