HARRISBURG -- The FBI doesn't consider the state gambling board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to be a law enforcement agency.
As a result, the FBI told the state Gaming Control Board in a recent letter that it will not give it certain information about those who have applied for casino licenses.
"The FBI has not, cannot, and will not provide the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement with any investigative information. We are generally prohibited from providing investigative information to non-law enforcement agencies and the BIE is not a law enforcement agency," J.P. Weiss, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office, and James K. Welch, a supervisory special agent, wrote in the Oct. 10 letter.
The letter was provided Monday to the Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development, which oversees the state's gambling industry. The committee is examining whether state gambling regulators received information on criminal background checks from state and federal law enforcement authorities.
The 2004 law authorizing casino gambling allowed the gambling board to choose whether to use the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement or the state police to conduct background checks.
The board chose its own bureau, which isn't allowed under federal or state laws to receive police intelligence files, former Lt. Col. Ralph Periandi told the panel. As a result, background investigations of applicants are "incomplete," said Periandi, who supervised state police gambling enforcement and contends the gambling board is granting licenses without complete criminal background checks.
The FBI wrote to board Chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins in response to requests for information last year on any intelligence gathered by the FBI on Louis DeNaples, a Scranton businessman whose casino opened Monday in the Poconos. The Mount Airy Casino and Resort became the first free-standing casino to open in Pennsylvania.
Casinos opened previously at five racetracks. Two stand-alone slot parlors in Philadelphia and another in Pittsburgh are expected to open in 2009. A license for a harness-racing track has yet to be awarded. Two licenses for smaller casinos at resorts are still available.
A Dauphin County grand jury is investigating whether DeNaples misled the gambling board when he said he had no connections to organized crime. If the board learns that it was misled by a licensee, it can revoke the license.
A news conference with DeNaples ended abruptly yesterday when a reporter asked him if he has ties to organized crime. …