COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's video-gambling industry has been linked to a Pittsburgh organized crime ring through federal court documents and state corporate records, a newspaper reported Sunday.
An organized crime source told The (Charleston) Post and Courier the ring was in South Carolina from video gambling's earliest days and remains in business across the state.
"You could go down there with a criminal record and be in business in a week," said the unidentified source, who worked with the Pittsburgh group in South Carolina.
Video-poker operator John "Duffy" Conley, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to working with reputed Mafia figures on a California casino deal, was listed in 1992 as an officer of D.D.B. Inc., a company with video-gambling interests in South Carolina.
One of Mr. Conley's associates, Albert Deltondo, pleaded guilty in Pennsylvania federal court in September to arranging the purchase of gambling machines for a California casino on behalf of Mr. Conley.
Mr. Deltondo has worked in video gambling in South Carolina, the newspaper reported.
According to court records, he illegally bought the machines for Mr. Conley using the name of a fictitious South Carolina company.
D.D.B.'s Pittsburgh attorney said the South Carolina businessman involved severed his ties with Mr. Conley before Mr. Conley was convicted. Mr. Conley, though, was publicly linked to mob figures by Pennsylvania officials before the company was dissolved.
South Carolina does not do a criminal-background check before giving out gambling licenses.
State law also does not demand to know who really owns the business, and it doesn't tax or track the money going through the machines.
"That makes our state a cherry ripe for the picking by out-of-state criminal elements," said Robert Stewart, State Law Enforcement division chief.
William Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming in Reno, Nev., said there is no reason organized crime would not come to South Carolina.
"If I was running illegal machines in Pittsburgh and I knew I could come to South Carolina without a tax, why not?" he said. "That's effectively a tax-free environment without a background check."
Gov. David Beasley, who opposes video gaming, said the presence of organized crime is just another reason to get rid of the $2 billion industry.
"It is much better to ban gambling, thus greatly decreasing the risk of organized crime involvement, than it is to try for further regulation and enforcement," he said.