Commissioner Dan Camp (left), Commissioner Tony Amadio (right) / submitted file photos

Officials from three of the four counties being considered for a new mini-casino, including those from Beaver County, signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from revealing meeting and project details.

Officials from the fourth, Butler County, chose not to sign NDAs but were still able to hold similar meetings with the casino operator.

“We didn’t sign an NDA,” said Butler Commissioner Chairwoman Leslie Osche, noting that counsel advised the board not to sign.

“We were asked, but there was nothing to ‘nondisclose.’ It didn’t seem to make sense for us,” Osche said.

Butler, Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer counties are in the 15-mile radius of land – with its bullseye near New Castle in Lawrence – being evaluated for the casino site. The location must be identified by Oct. 12 because of a licensing deadline.

Beaver County officials have been much more reticent than officials from the other three counties were to reveal anything about ongoing discussions.

County commissioners contacted Friday from Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties readily discussed how many meetings they’ve had with Mount Airy Casino & Resort, possible sites and issues, the NDAs they were asked to sign, and possible related public funding.

During this week’s Beaver County commissioners’ public meeting, Commissioner Chairman Dan Camp refused to answer questions posed to him by a member of the public about meetings he’s attended for the proposed casino.

“I can’t talk about who was there and who wasn’t there,” said Camp. “That meeting wasn’t held on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, that was someone else’s meeting.”

When a county taxpayer asked if Camp and Commissioner Tony Amadio were violating provisions of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, county Solicitor Garen Fedeles sought to downplay the significance of the meetings. “All it was, was sort of a meet and greet essentially. There were no decisions made.”

BeaverCountian.com previously reported that Camp and Amadio signed NDAs. Amadio has attended at least one private meeting and Camp at least three meetings with casino officials, with the last known meeting in May. Commissioner Sandie Egley refused to sign the NDA and hasn’t attended any of the meetings.

After months of questioning, Camp hinted at the possibility of a public-backed bond, rumored to be at least $40 million, to finance a convention center or entertainment complex to include the potential casino. A site in Big Beaver is being considered.

Amadio did not return a message left by BeaverCountian.com seeking comment about the meetings. He has been seen in the courthouse very little in 2018, due in part to a string of extended illnesses and injuries, and several vacations.

Mount Airy mini-casino territory / map provided to BeaverCountian.com by PA Gaming Control Board

The Casino and the Gaming Outcast

Mount Airy won a competitive bid for a mini-casino license from the state in February. The company bid $21.1 million to open a facility permitted to operate up to 750 slot machines, and after paying an additional fee of $2.5 million, run up to 30 table games.

Mount Airy was founded by Louis DeNaples, who was indicted by a Dauphin County grand jury in 2008 on four perjury charges for allegedly lying about mob ties when he was granted its license in 2006.

DeNaples agreed to turn over legal control of Mount Airy to a trust headed by his daughter Lisa in 2009 in exchange for the dismissal of the charges against him. The state also banned him for life from any further contact with or profit from gaming.

Osche said Butler officials met with a “team” from Mount Airy twice, including once at its Poconos location. Osche said Lisa DeNaples was present, as was her father, who “was in attendance” but didn’t add to the conversation.

Beaver County’s Solicitor Fedeles confirmed that Louis DeNaples attended two of their private meetings, including one in the Poconos, but refused to discuss his involvement, citing an NDA he signed along with Camp and Amadio.

Mercer County Commissioner Chairman Matthew McConnell said that Louis DeNaples did not attend the “at least three” meetings he has attended, one at the Poconos resort. He said he attended the first meeting without an NDA, but signed one for the other meetings.

McConnell said he understands the need for NDAs when companies need to protect their business and marketing ideas.

Lawrence County Commissioner Chairman Dan Vogler would not comment on whether Louis DeNaples was at the three meetings he’s attended, one also at the resort, citing the NDA. He would only say that he’s met with the company’s executives.

The state Gaming Control Board director of communications didn’t respond to a request for comment regarding Louis DeNaples’ attendance at the meetings. Instead, BeaverCountian.com received a request from a senior official with the board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement seeking more information about DeNaples’ involvement. The Beaver Countian pointed investigators to an article it published earlier this month and declined to provide any information not already publicly reported.

Vogler first won his seat in 2003, just as the area’s first proposed gaming developers were scouting sites in Beaver and Lawrence counties and trying to obtain the proper licenses. He spent the next 12 years maneuvering the ins and outs of the state’s gaming system while the proposed development evolved and eventually fizzled in 2016.

“Our position is, we would welcome them,” Vogler said of the current project. He believes Lawrence would give Mount Airy easy access to several major routes and the “lucrative eastern Ohio market” as a casino there doesn’t include table games.

Vogler said he couldn’t give a specific number of jobs, building size or anticipated revenue for the proposed casino yet, but he cited reports about a new mini-casino in the Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, as what he thinks he can expect.

The Westmoreland casino is planned to be located in a former Bon-Ton department store and is now going through a lengthy state review process.

It’s expected to have 750 slot machines and 30 table games, be about 100,000 square feet, employ 600 people, and generate between $800,000 and $1 million as the county’s portion of its annual revenue.

In comparison, a full-size casino such as Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh employs about 1,700 people, has 3,000 slot machines, more than 100 table games and a 30-table poker room.

The city of Pittsburgh alone got a $9.7 million share of its revenue in the last fiscal year; Allegheny County received $4.6 million.

The Question of Public Funding

Vogler said Lawrence officials have discussed “only in very general terms” the county’s potential use of public funds to assist in or around the development. He also noted the possible use of bond counsel for guidance. He said the county already has a tax abatement plan on the books.

Lawrence officials also are open to the idea of specifically using the portion of casino revenue the host county would be allocated, Vogler said. That money does not go directly to the county, he said. It goes to the state Commonwealth Financing Authority, which regulates very specifically how it can be used.

Vogler said Lawrence County views the potential casino as an economic advancement. For example, he said, look at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County. He noted it has spawned retail outlets and other ancillary businesses where there was once only the track.

Vogler said he doesn’t know a precise site Mount Airy is considering, but he believes it would be in or around New Castle. Lawrence County has a number of “dry” communities, meaning they don’t allow the sale of alcohol, which take them out of the running.

McConnell similarly said Mercer wouldn’t be averse to using public funds to advance either the project or adjacent area. Both McConnell and Vogler said advancing a convention center wouldn’t be out of the question.

McConnell cited his NDA and wouldn’t comment on the specific site that developers are considering. Other Mercer County officials have commented on the Grove City area as being of interest.

“It would make a whole lot of sense,” McConnell said, noting the presence of the Grove City Premium Outlets, major highway access and surrounding hotels and restaurants. “Obviously, that’s the one we show people.”

Unlike officials from the other three counties, Osche said Butler will not consider the use of any public funding to help or to complement a casino site.

Osche said Butler would gain little from the casino. She also noted that the county wouldn’t be in control of its portion of annual casino revenue because it would have to apply to the state authority for its potential use.

“We have such tremendous growth (in Butler County)” and plenty of jobs, she said, adding that companies are “continually” contacting the county looking for development sites.

“We don’t have to offer an incentive for them to move here.”

She also said Butler is choosing to follow the lead of the community in which Mount Airy has expressed interest in locating, Lancaster Township.

Residents there have turned out strongly opposed to the idea, Osche said. Communities had a December deadline to opt out of consideration, but Lancaster officials apparently didn’t know about it.

Osche said she understands the residents’ point of view in that “it’s their residences and their backyard.”

Financial Standings

Vogler, McConnell and Osche all said their counties’ budgets are balanced and sound; they have surpluses and good credit ratings. Butler has had another year with an increase in the general fund balance, Osche said.

Beaver County, on the other hand, is in a position of desperate financial straits.

Earlier this month, BeaverCountian.com reported on a confidential draft copy of a study critical of the county’s existing high level of debt and its poor credit rating. The report by Public Financial Management (PFM) Consulting Group, funded by a grant from the state as part of its Early Intervention Program, projected the county will face a $5.4 million deficit in the general fund beginning in 2019.

The report said that deficit will grow by roughly $2 million each year through 2023.

Regardless of where Mount Airy decides to locate, Vogler and McConnell believe the casino will still benefit their counties.

Both men mentioned the Shell Chemical Co. petrochemical complex under construction in Potter Township with the hope and belief it will also benefit their counties.

The regional goodwill was shared by all three outside commissioners.

“We wish everyone the best in terms of how it works out for their counties,” Osche said.

BeaverCountian.com’s John Paul contributed to this report.

Lori Boone
Lori Boone (DeLauter) has more than 20 years of experience in investigative and community journalism. She’s won more than a dozen regional, state and national journalism awards.

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rick
Member
rick

1. Camp & Amadio need to get voted out. 2. Beaver County has no Money. 3. We have a Casino right in Pittsburgh. And 4. I’m sick of the B.S. in our court house.

jenny
Guest
jenny

We as the Taxpayers, that pay the ample Salaries of these fools, that throw our money away, are the ones in charge.
They work FOR US, not us for them.
We were lied to, about the counties assets and finances.
We were lied to about the Friendship Ridge deal, that was supposed to bring “Tax relief” and millions of dollars to the county, hence why it was so great to make the deal.
We were told Shell Cracker Plant would create hundreds of jobs, create tax relief, and help the county, but so far………nothing.
Then we were told the County is doing great, but we are nearly bankrupt, and the commissioners can not tell the truth, they think they will look bad…….
Sorry guys, you have been outed. You are liars and fools.

The Ro
Member
The Ro

Not so sure about tax relief yet, BUT the Shell plant HAS created hundreds of jobs….probably more in the couple thousand range….soon to be much more. Drive by the place and LOOK.

Courthouse Janitor
Guest
Courthouse Janitor

Have you noticed the huge INFLUX OF HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS of migrant workers? Take a drive to the old sears store where they park and are shuttled. There are license plates from ALL OVER.

The Ro
Member
The Ro

Sure there is an influx of people from other states, but the LOCAL union halls are filling many jobs there with much more to come. My point was to counter “jennys” point of “so far, nothing” which is pure bullshit. I just love the group think of this blog….whipping up everyone into a frenzy by stating untrue staements.

mercbenz
Member
mercbenz

@The Ro.. most workers i see who are there are from out of state.

DoTell
Member
DoTell

@ro, or ray charles, cause you must be blind if you don’t think that parking lot is full of migrant workers! Maybe 1 outa 20 trucks has a PA plate.. you are stating untrue facts sir/mam!

Unbungabelievable
Guest
Unbungabelievable

Yeah. Jobs for people OUTSIDE of Beaver County. I have met people who have jobs at the plant and they ARE NOT BEAVERCOUNTIANS…

jenny
Guest
jenny

@The Ro, of course there are some local jobs. I never said there were literally none, but it was promised to be the thing to save Beaver county. Yet we are nearly literally in Bankruptcy and have a very poor credit rating for our county class.
By and large, the majority of workers are from out of state, and many work for Shell as contractors that specialize in this type of construction.
We simply do not have a lot of local workers that are well versed in large scale industrial construction, such as a cracker plant. A cracker plant is very unique and Shell even announced a ways back they would need to bring in most workers from out of state to build the plant.

The Ro
Member
The Ro

https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2018/04/05/skilled-workers-needed-cracker-plant-construction/

Doesn’t seem like out of state to me….they need pipefitters and insulators and laborers…read the article and look at the numbers.

Gerald Vincent Benyo
Guest
Gerald Vincent Benyo

Other than that Connie Javens violated the law but Lozier determined no crime was committed, has anyone ever determined how much money the county lost on selling Friendship Ridge or even where the millions of.dollars the county was to receive went?

BeaverNewbie
Guest
BeaverNewbie

Yes, I a guy named Luckow probably knows. They fired him.

equalizer13
Member
equalizer13

The commissioners could care less how much was lost. Every time the subject is brought up no final report is provided. There is none. Ask about the 17 million that was pissed away by county in an investment firm owned by one of our esteemed local “contractors”. Who is involved with casino gate also. The county is going to write it off! We ate it!

Unbungabelievable
Guest
Unbungabelievable

You know, that great investigation that so far has not produced a damn thing except for giving crooked cops paid vacation time while the rest of the crooks keep getting their hefty taxpayer paychecks and their pockets lined from others. Like I have said before, if the BS hasnt stopped during the supposed investigation, what does that tell us. Those in power, and by that I mean those that have all the money, know how to pay people off or threaten them for their benefit… CHANGE-LOL.

mercbenz
Member
mercbenz

We all know where the money went! I’m sure most of you recall how previous boards “fudged” the budget to make it balance. I’m sure every penny went to fix years of the so called budget. I sure would like to know how many millions this county was in debt for before the sale.

CountDown
Member
CountDown

I’m certain that the county’s budget and financials are public information. Why not take a day or two and stop by the courthouse and check it out for yourself? Only seems like the natural thing to do, don’t you think?

ricimer
Guest
ricimer

And the wheels keep turning in Beaver County. Who was that young lady murdered on Mothers day in her mothers driveway Rachael something Oh yeah Rachael DelTondo.

Raven
Member
Raven

Usually, Conehead, it’s a good idea to have some money when you start gambling, especially with someone else’s money. You didn’t, don’t and won’t, and never will. They will tire of ante-ing in for you, and you will just end up more broke than now. Fold and go home.

Hugger
Guest
Hugger

There is not a problem with officials trying to entice things to come to Beaver County. Why all the whining?

Raven
Member
Raven

Because the county has a budget deficit looming, because of money mishandling, because the intermediaries are untrustworthy double dealers, because the two Coms are incompetent and because the enticement is to people with organized crime connections. That’s not whining. Red flags are up everywhere.

Accordingtome
Member
Accordingtome

Was that supposed to be a serious question or were you one of the “attendees” at the scheming session that included Camp and Amadio whose just trying out the preplanned response that you’re supposed to give when questioned about the appropriateness of these meetings?

There’s a difference between enticing a business that will either provide substantial direct or indirect revenue to the county or significantly enrich the lives of those in the community and giving your buddies millions of taxpayer dollars as a handout so that you get a personal kickback as a thank you gift.

There are enough casinos within driving distance from just about anywhere that the probability of conventions being booked and held in Big Beaver simply because there is a nearby ‘mini casino’ is slim and none. Even an idiot with a sub par IQ would realize this (so both Camp and Amadio should be able to comprehend the concept).

While giving millions in handouts to your buddies in and of itself is bad enough, this is a situation where the county doesn’t have the money and our County Commissioners Chairboy thinks it’s a good idea to borrow it. If we had a DA who didn’t participate in the various schemes that occur in the county, my guess is that they would be watching this very closely because it amounts to what sure smells a lot like criminal conspiracy.

Josh
Guest
Josh

So let’s just sit back and complain when another county gets something without us trying. You’re the typical “Beavercountian”. Beaver Co has to at least have a seat at the table to get a chance. And Non-disclosures are not illegal. When Shell was in the early talks everyone they looked at signed NDA’s.

DoTell
Member
DoTell

@josh a shell plant and casino are 2 completely different companies, you can’t compare a huge corporation worth billions to a micro casino ran by mobsters

CountDown
Member
CountDown

OH, FFS! Wow

BeaverNewbie
Guest
BeaverNewbie

Hugger –

Here is the problem and there are multiple parts –

Do we really want to hang our future viability on a casino? Probably not.
The officials are talking about bonds to fund a Convention Center. What idiot would think that a Convention Center in Big Beaver makes any sense at all? Let’s see the dentists convention has narrowed their convention down to Las Vega, Orlando, Pittsburgh and Big Beaver. Yeah, right. However there is a benefit – if the bond money funds “family and friends”, who knows what “side benefits” might come from it?!

This is fishy and it’s a textbook setup for corruption in an already dubious group of public officials.

EJ
Guest
EJ

Why all the whining? Because you’re in the beavercountian.com. comment section, the counties #1 home for whiners, bitches, crybabies, and moaners. Do any of these old lazy losers do anything about anything they bitch about (and they bitch about EVERYTHING)? Nope, cause then they wouldn’t have anything left to complain about.

CountDown
Member
CountDown

Thanks for the reality check EJ… AMEN

equalizer13
Member
equalizer13

Hugger, they lack the intellectual and financial capabilities to even dream of the casino. Would you fly on an airplane with Stevie Wonder as pilot? That’s exactly what this whole scam is about. Back door wheeling and dealing like the boys from Comprehensive. They run circles around our commissioners and end up suing us taxpayers and getting a big payday to boot. That’s why the laws of boxing don’t let feather weights box heavy weights. It’s called suicide. Only this is financial suicide by inept corrupt political hacks.

DoTell
Member
DoTell

We are broke!! They are trying to give $ away! This won’t bring local money to the area, just pad some criminals pockets! Also, it’s a mini casino, which I just hear as mob meeting grounds. It’s a pimple on the ass in size to the rivers casino. It’s a joke and 110% not needed and again, the county is broke!!!