HARRISBURG — The owner of a northeastern Pennsylvania casino may now re-enter his property and exert some influence over the struggling business after state gambling regulators on Wednesday lifted a suspension of his license.
The unanimous vote by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board came seven weeks after Dauphin County authorities dropped perjury charges against Louis A. DeNaples.
“Just the feeling of the owner coming back onto the property is going to lift the burden that’s been on this property for a year and a half,” said the chief executive officer of Mount Airy Casino Resort, George Toth, who hasn’t spoken to DeNaples since he was hired last December.
“I think there was uncertainly among the employees, among the customers, and that’s gone now,” he said.
The gaming board limited DeNaples’ control over the casino, a nod to a concession DeNaples made as part of an agreement with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico to drop the charges in April.
DeNaples may give advice and back the facility financially, but legal control — including the power to hire and fire — rests with Toth and the executive team, which includes DeNaples’ daughter Lisa.
Lisa DeNaples issued a statement welcoming her father back.
“Although he has been physically absent from us, his spirit never left our hearts and minds here at Mount Airy,” she said. “Having him back among us is invaluable.”
The next step for DeNaples is to undergo a background investigation that is required annually of all casino owners and wait at least several more months to see whether the gaming board will approve his plan to transfer the casino’s ownership to his children.
That background investigation may include a review of grand jury testimony and evidence that led to the perjury charges against DeNaples, although a judge has not decided whether to allow gaming board investigators access to the materials.
Louis DeNaples’ license was suspended in February 2008 after he was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the gaming board about whether he had connections to organized crime. DeNaples has maintained his innocence, while his lawyers have accused prosecutors of filing the charges as part of a crusade against Pennsylvania’s fledgling gambling industry.
The gaming board appointed a trustee, former Shippensburg University president Anthony F. Ceddia, to oversee the establishment while DeNaples’ license was suspended. Ceddia will continue to observe Mount Airy’s operations and report to the gaming board.