A pizza company owner who wanted to open a location at Parx is now prohibited from opening shop in any Pennsylvania casino. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted to bar Michael Giammarino, of Lombardi’s Pizza, from obtaining a gaming license due to Giammarino’s alleged ties with organized crime.
The board issued its unanimous decision during its hearing Nov. 28. The decision rejected the findings of an independent examiner’s report that declared the state’s evidence inconclusive.
Giammarino has indicated that he plans to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court. He has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, including during questioning at the PGCB’s Oct. 31 hearing. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said,
“Everybody’s going to make the assumption that I’m mobbed up, and it’s not true.”
Parx Casino did not wait for the completion of the investigation to act. The Bensalem casino severed its relationship with Giammarino and opened a pizzeria of its own, Oliveto, instead.
Giammarino may be a victim of guilt by association
For the board to reject an applicant on these grounds, one might think the evidence would be overwhelming. However, the board’s main piece of evidence against Giammarino seems to be the identity of his stepfather.
Giammarino ran Lombardi’s locations in both New York City and Philadelphia. His stepfather, John Brescio, acted as the public face of the New York side of the business.
However, New York law enforcement also identified Brescio as a capo in the Genovese crime family. Their surveillance of Brescio revealed that he had commonly associated with members of the Gambino and Colombo crime families in his business dealings.
Giammarino has claimed to be unaware of Brescio’s activities. Brescio, for his part, later disassociated with the pizzeria chain run by his stepson.
It is also possible that Giammarino may have used organized crime figures to foster discussions with Parx. Law enforcement has identified these unnamed intermediaries as such, but Giammarino has similarly claimed not to know about their activities or even their identities.
“I just don’t understand how all these people’s misdeeds got basically tattooed on me,” he said, during last month’s hearing.
The PGCB isn’t going to take any chances
Unfortunately for Giammarino, the board’s policy is generally to err on the side of caution. Any hint of organized crime in an applicant’s circle is likely to cause rejection.
“We encourage the board to take a zero tolerance policy to any association with organized crime by any applicant or licensee,” said OEC Attorney Michael Roland, at the Oct. 31 hearing.
The board’s stance may seem overly severe to outside observers. However, given the historical relationship between organized crime and the gaming industry, the risk of corruption is simply too great to ignore.