Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2000 | 4:26 a.m.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - He's the president of Caesars Atlantic City Hotel Casino, a rising star who worked his way up from craps dealer to a $325,000-a-year job as an executive with the world's biggest casino company.
He's also a compulsive gambler who ran up six-figure losses, lied about it and defied a regulatory order banning him from betting.
Now New Jersey casino regulators must decide: Can a man like this be trusted to run a casino?
Or would revoking his license send the wrong message to other problem gamblers who work in New Jersey's 12 casinos?
The state Division of Gaming Enforcement recommended Wednesday that Gary DiBartolomeo, 45, of Margate, be stripped of his casino license.
In a scathing 65-page report, Deputy Attorney General James Fogarty listed nearly two dozen instances in which DiBartolomeo violated a restriction banning him from gambling.
At casinos in Nevada, Connecticut, Mississippi, the Bahamas and Monte Carlo, he bet $345 to $1,527 per hand, running up debts of $389,000 in one 18-month period.
Unable to bet in Atlantic City casinos because he held a casino key license, the highest level of license in New Jersey, DiBartolomeo twice had a fellow Caesars worker act as his "alter ego" at Trump Plaza, placing blackjack bets for him as he stood by and watched.
He gave $7,500 to Dennis Kim, director of Korean marketing at Caesars, with the understanding that if he won, DiBartolomeo would get the winnings and Kim would get a couple of hundred dollars for helping him, the report said.
The report called DiBartolomeo financially irresponsible, noting that he once needed a $90,000 loan from then-casino president Mark Juliano to pay off one debt and that he needed advances on forthcoming bonuses to make good.
On other occasions, he took high-interest loans to hide his losses from his wife and sold his wristwatches to come up with money, the report said.
"We ... are very concerned that his conduct and behavior renders him vulnerable to situations and people that could cause him to compromise the fair and honest performance of his duties or otherwise have him engage in conduct inimical to the (Casino Control) Act," Fogarty said.
New Jersey casino executives are allowed to gamble, but not in New Jersey casinos. DiBartolomeo, however, was banned from gambling anywhere in 1995, as a condition of the state Casino Control Commission's renewal of his license.
He also was ordered to attend weekly meetings of Gamblers Anonymous, which he failed to do, according to the state report.
Park Place Entertainment Corp., which owns Caesars, is standing by its man.
The company is asking the state Casino Control Commission to let him return to work, provided he continues taking medication, undergoes weekly psychotherapy sessions, performsWallace Barr, executive vice president of Park Place Entertainment, said DiBartolomeo is the first senior executive in the casino industry ever to publicly admit to compulsive gambling.
Revoking his license is too severe, Barr said.
"Park Place is concerned that Mr. DiBartolomeo's unique human condition is being handled as a law enforcement issue rather than a serious health issue. And this will have far-reaching negative implications for Gary and his family," Barr said.
Bernard DeLury Jr., a Park Place Entertainment Corp. lawyer, said Park Place officials didn't know about DiBartolomeo's problem when they promoted him to the top job. When asked if he had any license restrictions, he told them he didn't, DeLury said.
Experts on compulsive gambling said Wednesday that DiBartolomeo should be given another chance.
"A hard-line negative decision by the commission will impact those employees in the future who might want to come forward because of a gambling problem," said Edward Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling. "Without job security, there would be little incentive to come forward."
Arnie Wexler, a former executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling who now works as a private consultant, agreed. One of the most important aspects of recovery is remaining on the job, he said.
DiBartolomeo, while higher-ranking than most, is far from alone, according to Wexler.
"There are more people working behind the tables that are compulsive gamblers, percentage-wise, than there are playing at the tables," Wexler said.
DiBartolomeo and his lawyer, Mark Sandson, criticized the state report, saying it was needlessly harsh and painted a picture of DiBartolomeo as a "monster."
He committed no crimes, DiBartolomeo said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He gambled legally, lost and paid his debts with his substantial income, he said.
"It's an illness," he said. "It's not moral. It's medical."
He acknowledged lying and violating the commission's order banning him from gambling, but he said he did so when he was in the throes of the disease.
He said he never gambled after being appointed president of Caesars in January.
"If they strip me of my license, what kind of message is that going to send out to other executives who are suffering from this illness? And believe me, they're out there. Why come forward?"
The state report was received by the Casino Control Commission and remanded for a hearing, but no date was set. Commission spokesman Daniel Heneghan said DiBartolomeo is pushing for an expedited hearing.