Proposed location of Mount Airy mini-casino in Beaver County / imagery via Beaver County GIS

Officials identified a final mini-casino location in Big Beaver Monday, but the state licensing process requires a long, multi-layered review process that may or may not result in its approval.

Part of that long process is an investigations and enforcement unit review that may take into account the fact that the casino’s former owner, Louis DeNaples, has been attending mini-casino-related meetings despite a state ban on his doing business with gaming.

An official from the state Gaming Control Board Monday reiterated his previous comment to BeaverCountian.com that DeNaples’ involvement is being investigated.

“Per your reporting, the PGCB’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement is looking into the matter. I cannot comment further,” said Doug Harbach, the gaming board’s director of communications.

BeaverCountian.com also received a request for further information about DeNaples from a senior investigator with the gaming board. He was referred to prior published stories.

Mount Airy Casino & Resort, the state’s only family-owned casino, won a competitive bid for a mini-casino license from the state in February. The company bid a total of $23.6 million to open a facility it’s calling Mount Airy Pittsburgh, which would operate 750 slot machines, 30 table games and high-limit area with a buffet and sports bar, according to its press release.

The Big Beaver site chosen is located off of Fairlane Boulevard, near the intersection of I-376 and the state turnpike. The 100-acre commercially zoned site was acquired last year by BiKop LP for $3 million, and was initially planned to house warehouse space. BiKop is a company controlled by developer Pat Nardelli, a partner in Castlebrook Development Group. The press release stated that Mount Airy will purchase the land, but did not provide any details on the price tag.

Mount Airy was founded by 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 for its Poconos site 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 from any further contact with or profit from gaming.

But county officials in Beaver and Butler counties confirmed that Louis DeNaples attended meetings about the mini-casino.

Harbach said he found out about Mount Airy’s location decision Monday through its press release.

Mount Airy has until Oct. 12 to submit its full application, which will include its chosen location site, Harbach said.

But that application is far more extensive than just the site location. It’s a “rather lengthy” document that must include project details including its funding, traffic mitigation and infrastructure, Harbach said.

That application will go through a bureau of licensing review of deficiencies, which must then be addressed. Then it will go through the investigations and enforcement unit review. After that, the gaming board will have a public hearing in Big Beaver for public and written comments. Then it will finally go back before the gaming board for final approval.

Harbach couldn’t estimate how long that will all take. The state’s initial casinos went through an approval process that took up to a year. But Harbach said that because Mount Airy is a “known entity .. that’s not starting from scratch” the process will likely be shorter than that.

“All applicants have to go through a great deal of scrutiny,” Harbach said.

Mount Airy’s press release anticipated breaking ground at the end of the year, and a grand opening in late 2019.

Harbach said there is no issue with it beginning construction as long as it has all of its necessary local permits, but the casino operation will depend on the gaming board’s final decision.

Shannon Steele, Big Beaver’s solicitor, said no members of the public have turned out to council meetings to express opinions on the development. “Now we may (have them) because of the announcement made today,” she said.

Steele said the borough council was unanimous in its support of a resolution to permit casino activity. Steele said no permit applications have been applied for yet by the developer.

The property will be designed by the Friedmutter Group, which also worked on The Cosmopolitan resort in Las Vegas. The release noted that future plans include a full-service resort hotel, convention center, fine dining restaurant, pool, spa and salon.

“We envision the casino as just the start of building something truly special for the tri-state area,” Lisa DeNaples was quoted as saying in the release.

“Imagine not just a casino, but a destination that raises industry-wide expectations and standards – serving as a phenomenal gathering space for celebrations and live entertainment and bringing upwards of 700 jobs to regional residents,” she 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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economyresident
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economyresident

Don’t worry, the right palms will get greased or the right words whispered in someone’s ear and you will all be able to squander your disability checks, social security, the cash from selling your food stamps, etc… all while lining the pockets of Betters, Veon, Camp, Amadio, Javens, and so on.

Disgruntled
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Disgruntled

Forgive me if I don’t have a lot of faith in a control boarded headed by a Wolf appointee. Chances of Mt Airy East not going into operation? Zero point zero.

Disgruntled
Member
Disgruntled

Make that Mt. Airy West

Disgruntled
Member
Disgruntled

I can only assume that a significant portion of the pension fund is going to make it’s way into the equation at some point. It’s the only thing the county has that’s worth anything. It’ll probably go something like this: Mt Airy builds the convention center, the county ‘invests’ part of the pension fund into Mt. Airy, but only in the convention center portion (they’ll lawyer that somehow with a separate legal entity) so that Mt Airy walks away with county cash to build a convention center for themselves.

Even if this exact scenario doesn’t play out, something similar will. In the end, Mt. Airy will end up with whatever they want because they are smarter and more ruthless than anyone Beaver county rubes have ever dealt with. They are coming to reap a harvest, and not just in gambling.

Disgruntled
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Disgruntled

Dan and Tony signing the settlement agreement with Comprehensive Health had to have been a huge factor in Beaver County being selected. Any county willing to walk away from $1.2M to keep their dirty laundry hidden must sound like a dream come true. Get ready to see Dan Camp and Tony Amadio campaign swag everywhere next year, they’re going to have PLENTY of yard sign money.

Wakeup
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Wakeup

Funny, KDKA just reported this as a go and no mention of permits, meetings, etc. Shocking that everything was a big secret. Why wasn’t this put to a vote through the citizens? How can 2 people make every decision for this County? This is not like adding a Red Lobster. Gambling brings a whole new set of problems and violence that will affect us all. The infrastructure is literally falling apart here and cannot handle this. The roads are sinking and the ones near the mall look like Swiss cheese to name a few. The trucks are further destroying everything and NO repairs are being made. I would never hold a function here for family to attend. It is dismal and embarrassing. Drive to other cities outside PA to see what fiscal responsibility looks like. The only acceptable road I see is going through Beaver and most of that beautification was due to the former Mayor. Commissioners why do you hate the citizens and county so much? How can you ignore the state of the roads and buildings? Where is your sense of pride and duty? The tax base is more than enough compared to other counties this size. Such greed and incompetency.

Name:*
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@wakeup
This issue WAS put to a vote by the citizens. It was the commissioner election.
These people are empowered to make decisions through the election.
As someone once said: “Elections have consequences”.
Beaver County voters should pay heed to those words.

bobby boom boom
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bobby boom boom

I don’t know that casino gambling would add any more problems and violence to this area than what we already have on the main streets , bars and Wal-Mart parking lots. As if gambling would be a new introduction into people’s lifestyle around here. The bigger concern would be low attendance and lost investment at this facility from the over saturated casino market.

CountDown
Member
CountDown

Most of the roads here that you’re talking about are State roads. Talk to your State Representatives about the State Road infrastructure. Dilapidated buildings bothering you? Think that’s government’s responsibility, do you? Those buildings and properties are privately owned. Many have gone to tax sale, judicial sale. Demolishing those buildings costs your local government much much money. IF it can be done due to ownership issues and court cases on those properties.