All in the Family: $50 Million Relief Loan for Mount Airy Casino Has Louis DeNaples Ties

Posted on September 9, 2020 - Last Updated on November 18, 2020

Banker and businessman Louis A. DeNaples seems unable to stay away and beneath the radar when it comes to his ongoing involvement in Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.

Most recently, it is FNC Bank, a Scranton, PA, piggybank with DeNaples and three family members on the board, attracting attention for a whopping $50 million loan from a taxpayer-backed program to help midsized businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The recipient of the largesse from FNC Bank via taxpayers’ money?

Why, that’s Mount Airy Casino, according to a story that appeared recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DeNaples’ presence thwarted Mount Airy mini-casino license

And just last year, it was DeNaples’ alleged background presence in a failed bid by Mount Airy to add a mini-casino in Western PA that put him on the radar.

Regulators had previously told DeNaples he was to have no hands-on involvement with the casino company he built. They forced him to pass on his ownership and control to his children and grandchildren. However, strangely, he remained licensed by PA because he remained the guarantor of loans to the low-grossing casino property.

Citing financing issues, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) revoked the mini-casino license. But a Beaver County online publication alleged DeNaples kept showing up at local planning meetings, which was not allowed after he was forced to relinquish control of Mount Airy.

The mini license lost by Mount Airy has since been resold by the state for $10,000,101 to Ira Lubert. An equities and real estate man from Philadelphia, Lubert has proposed building the new satellite casino near State College, PA.

DeNaples bought and rebuilt Mount Airy as a casino

DeNaples, an octogenarian, continuing his entanglement in the PA gaming industry despite having a listing on Mafia Wiki is baffling, to say the least.

Despite alleged ties to a once-powerful Northeast Pennsylvania Mafia family, the Buffalinos, and a 1978 no-contest plea that he and three others bilked the federal government out of disaster recovery funds following Tropical Storm Agnes, he was granted a casino license in late 2006.

A year later in 2007, he opened the refashioned Mount Airy Lodge as a $412 million casino.

Perjury charge settlement stripped DeNaples of control of Mount Airy

But he had allegedly lied about his relationships with mobsters, including William “Big Billy” D’Elia the last known leader of the Buffalino crime family. The crime family’s namesake was Russell Buffalino, played by actor Joe Pesci in the recent mob movie The Irishman.

In 2006, the feds indicted D’Elia for laundering $600,000 in illegal drug money — oh, and trying to have a co-defendant killed. Two years later, D’Elia pleaded guilty to lesser charges and rolled over on DeNaples.

A grand jury indicted DeNaples in early 2008.

The charge? Perjuring himself before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

To settle the case, DeNaples created a family trust led by his daughter, a dentist, for the casino property, which is up for license renewal in August of next year.

Friends and family are how DeNaples does business

Despite the trust and a requirement to stay out of day-to-day operations, DeNaples has repeatedly sought to do business with Mount Airy, the Pocono Record newspaper has reported.

The Times-Tribune of Scranton has routinely pointed out that DeNaples and his businesses receive favors from legislators to whom he contributes. The businesses — auto parts, landfills, garbage collection, real estate — are operated from Dunmore, a suburb adjacent to Scranton.

The $50 million loan from the Main Street Lending Program is aimed at addressing strains caused by the virus. And it is not backed by DeNaples’ bank, but by the feds.

That means the public is on the hook if Mount Airy defaults.

PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach declined, in the Inquirer story, to address whether the loan might have violated a previous measure. The measure in question was meant to prevent DeNaples from profiting in any way from the casino.

Harbach told PlayPennsylvania on Wednesday that he was unaware of any current investigations of DeNaples by gaming regulators.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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