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Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will not appeal Casino License to a construction firm that it believes has ties to Organized Crime

Bringing a contentious case to a close, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will not appeal the award of a casino license to a construction firm that the agency believes has ties to organized crime.

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, over vehement objections from the DGE, approved a license in May for Pleasantville-based Bayshore Rebar Inc. and its owners, Joseph N. Merlino and his mother, Phyllis Merlino.

The DGE, which had discussed the possibility of an appeal, had 45 days in which to challenge the commission's ruling in state court. However, the division allowed the appeal deadline to lapse. DGE spokesman Paul Loriquet said Friday that the agency would not comment further about the case.

The licensing dispute pitted two government agencies against each other, with both sides accusing the other of misconduct as the case unfolded. The commission serves as the chief regulatory body for Atlantic City's $3.9 billion casino industry, while the DGE acts as an investigative agency.

John M. Donnelly, an Atlantic City attorney representing the Merlinos, said he is relieved the grueling regulatory battle has finally come to an end. "It's been an expensive ordeal," Donnelly said. "We don't need any more litigation."

During Bayshore's licensing hearing, DGE attorneys alleged that the Merlinos were linked to organized crime through their relatives. Joseph N. Merlino's cousin is jailed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino. The late Lawrence "Yogi" Merlino, a high-ranking mobster, was Joseph N. Merlino's father and the ex-husband of Phyllis Merlino.

In a unanimous vote May 5, the five-member Casino Control Commission concluded the Merlinos were not connected to organized crime. The license allows the Merlinos and Bayshore to do business with Atlantic City's casinos.

The ruling reversed 21 years of state policy. The Merlinos were denied a license by the commission in 1989 and again in 1997 based on the belief that they had "inimical associations" with organized crime.

This time around, the commission ruled the Merlinos were free of any mob influence. Joseph N. Merlino and his mother insisted they had long ago severed all ties to any family members involved in organized crime.

Thanks to Donald Wittkowski

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