"In a private conversation, the governor said to me, 'This might be the last conversation we ever have,' " said Frank Friel, a retired Philadelphia cop and former Bensalem public safety director.At home
in Bensalem last weekend, three days after his
appointment, the weight of his
new responsibility was sinking in.
"I don't want to underestimate it.I don't want to overstate it either.It's going to be difficult," Friel
said."Organized crime is a cash business and the mob has always preyed on the high-volume cash business because there's lots of ways to skim money.
"In New Jersey, there was an attempt to infiltrate through the construction of the casinos," Friel
said."They [mobsters] were very much involved in trying to control the casinos by virtue of the casino service industry and through the unions.We need to keep them totally off the radar screen."Friel
will head a seven-person board responsible for keeping both organized crime and politicians out of the gambling industry that's about to explode in Pennsylvania.The gaming control board also is charged with selecting companies that have the intention and the financial backing to sustain quality casino venues, such as the future operation at Philadelphia Park in Friel's hometown.
The most difficult test in the coming months will be an investigation into the companies that apply for gambling licenses, Friel
said.Who are the stakeholders in the nameless, faceless companies that can afford $50 million for a license and still have enough extra capital left for a first-rate casino?Friel
would find out.
The gaming board members, appointed by politicians, also will have to keep those politicians from substantial ties to the casinos.Pennsylvania's slots legislation allows elected officials to hold as much as a 1 percent interest in a gambling venue.
"I think that's completely inappropriate, and I think everyone is concentrating on ways to eliminate it," Friel
said of the 1 percent provision."I am not a politician.I've never been a politician.I don't feel any political pressure."
Rendell has issued an executive order prohibiting anyone in the governor's administration from being involved in casinos, Friel
The mayor said the township would provide Friel
and the gaming control board with all the assistance they need to maintain and regulate Philadelphia Park.Friel
has excellent judgment and investigative skills, the mayor said.
The gaming control board will make certain Philadelphia Park maintains a positive appearance and proves an economic booster rather than a disgrace, Friel
"This is a community that's near and dear to me," Friel
said."This is something I feel I have a particular interest in and concern for."Friel served as Bensalem's first public safety director, from 1989 to 1997.
Local officials credited Friel
with a dramatic turnaround in the town's police department.Politics and administrative turmoil had led to low morale on the force when Friel
took over.Before his
exit, the department was considered one of the top forces in the state.Friel's
earlier career as a Philadelphia police officer was marked with several high-profile arrests of organized crime figures such as reputed Mafia kingpin Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo.Friel worked often with Rendell, Philadelphia's district attorney during that time.
...Friel worked as a private investigator when he left the police department and now is head of security for The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.Friel said he expects to leave CHOP early in October to begin work on the gaming control board.So far, Friel; William Conaboy, vice president and general counsel for Allied Services; and Temple University Health System CEO Joseph W. "Chip" Marshall have been appointed to the board.
isn't a gambling man.
"I'd rather put $150 into a good meal than a slot machine," he