Hazleton businessman Paul DeAngelo can’t step foot into the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino, but a partnership he’s involved in seemingly hit the jackpot this week when its real estate project was awarded $1 million in state gaming funds.
DeAngelo, one of the beneficiaries of a project in Hazleton that is getting a grant, is among the hundreds of people banned from entering any casino in Pennsylvania.
DeAngelo, co-founder and president of DBi Services, is on the state’s exclusion list because he accompanied his underage son, Paul DeAngelo Jr., to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains Township on Jan. 2, 2011, and the two men entered the gaming floor and played blackjack and slot machines.
The junior DeAngelo was only 20 at the time. State law requires gamblers to be 21 or older.
DeAngelo, who could not be reached for comment Friday, and his son were both placed on the exclusion list, and his son was charged with a summary offense of underage gaming. On April 1, 2011, DeAngelo Jr. entered a guilty plea and was fined $200.
Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the state Gaming Control Board, said Friday he could not comment on the grant or the process by which it was awarded, but he verified the DeAngelos were on the exclusion list.
He said they will remain there until they make a request with the gaming board for a hearing to make a case as to why they should be removed.
Gaming funds were requested by Hazleton, on behalf of DHD Realty Holding LLC, to renovate the Traders Bank and HNB Buildings on Broad Street in downtown Hazleton. Thirty-seven projects throughout Luzerne County will share in the $12.5 million in gaming funding approved Wednesday at a meeting of the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
The grants are from the Local Share Account, which receives gaming money generated by casinos, including Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. They are handled by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, an independent state agency responsible for administering the state’s economic stimulus programs.
The Commonwealth Financing Authority awarded $1 million for the project, which proposes to rehabilitate the structure that will house the relocated world headquarters for DBi Services and occupants to whom the remaining space is leased.
DBi will relocate 100 employees from its Conahan Drive location in Hazleton’s Heights section to the downtown. The project is expected to produce up to 130 new jobs, the company said.
A partnership between Neal and Paul DeAngelo of DBi Services and George F. Hayden of Hayden Electric purchased the Traders and Hazleton National bank buildings on Broad Street last year and announced details for the $20 million project.
DBi Services, headquartered in Hazleton, provides infrastructure maintenance, operations and management solutions in North America, Europe and the Middle East for government agencies, utilities, private industries, railways, retailers and other infrastructure owners. It was formed in 1978 and employs 1,500 worldwide.
State Sen. John Yudichak said he supported the project because of the jobs it would create and because it benefits downtown Hazleton, a city in his district. The city also felt it was a worthy project, which is why it applied for funding on the project’s behalf, he said.
He was unaware of DeAngelo’s status on the exclusion list and declined to comment on the situation because he was not versed in the legalities of being on the list and benefiting from local share grants.
“We’re going to investigate, we’re going to research and we’re going to review and see if there should be a different standard,” said Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.
Theresa Elliot, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community and Economic Development, which the Commonwealth Financing Authority operates under, said: “The LSA funds are from the local share assessment on the facility’s gross revenue. It has nothing to do with any person’s ability to enter a casino, own a casino, work at the casino, etc.”
“There aren’t any prohibitions written in the guidelines that exclude a municipality from applying on behalf of a company owned/co-owned, etc. by someone on the casino exclusion list,” she added.
Mayor defends award
Hazleton Mayor Joe Yannuzzi doesn’t think the exclusion should have any effect on the award of the grant.
Yannuzzi pointed out that George Hayden is involved in the project as well, and his companies have invested heavily in downtown Hazleton. There is no reason that the project should suffer because the son of one of the partners violated the law and his father was with him, he said.
“There’s more to that company than Paul DeAngelo,” said Yannuzzi. “He has a brother Neal, (who is vice president). I don’t think his personal life should be held against his company.”
DeAngelo has prospered despite a 1994 conviction for his participation in a drug ring that put him in jail for 18 months.
Disgraced ex-Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan had been called an unindicted co-conspirator in that case. Conahan, now imprisoned on unrelated racketeering conspiracy charges, allegedly introduced DeAngelo to a Florida drug dealer.