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Las Vegas man becomes 35th person added to Nevada’s black book

Updated December 20, 2018 - 7:58 pm

A Las Vegas man with an admitted gambling problem tried to keep himself off the state’s list of excluded persons.

He failed.

Jeffrey Martin on Thursday became the 35th person placed on the list commonly known as the Black Book after a rare hearing before the Nevada Gaming Commission and a unanimous vote.

“It’s funny because I’m standing here as a recovering compulsive gambler asking you to not keep me out of a casino,” Martin said in his appearance before commissioners. “It seems so silly to say out loud, but it’s true because I feel like everything you’ve read and has been said, other than the part about being a part of the planning of this crime, I did. I did it all.”

Martin was a part of a group of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison.

The group’s ringleader, Mark Branco, Martin’s brother-in-law, was a craps dealer at Bellagio and remains incarcerated after being sentenced to four to 10 years in prison. Martin said it was Branco who invited him to participate in the scheme.

The state Gaming Control Board in November issued complaints against the other participants, Anthony Grant Granito and James Russell Cooper, who received lighter sentences and were placed on probation.

Later in the month, the Gaming Commission made Granito and Cooper the 33rd and 34th people placed on the excluded-persons list.

That left Martin, who chose to have a hearing, a procedure that had never occurred during commission Chairman Tony Alamo’s regulatory career.

According to Cooper’s grand jury testimony, Granito or Martin would play at a table operated by Branco and mumble something that sounded like a “hop bet” — a wager that specific numbers would come up on the next roll — and one of the dealers would pay out as if they had correctly wagered on whatever fell.

At the time, the felt on the craps table at Bellagio had no designated spot for such bets.

Investigators who reviewed hours of surveillance video from play that occurred between August 2012 and July 2014 said the team defied 452 billion-to-1 odds to win an estimated $1.2 million over time.

In Thursday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General John Micheala summoned one witness, Control Board investigator Ken Yurgelon, to corroborate details of the investigation and his contact with Martin that led to his confession, conviction and sentencing.

Martin had the right to an attorney but chose to speak on behalf of himself.

Martin said he wanted to avoid being placed on the list because he wanted to continue to be able to go to shows, eat at casino restaurants and enjoy “staycations.” Regulations require that casinos ban people on the list from all amenities.

Commissioner Philip Pro, a former federal judge, said Martin wasn’t a notorious character like a defendant who once appeared before him — Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro — but that Martin’s actions were reason enough to place him on the list.

Alamo left Martin with one ray of hope — that regulations allow him to petition for removal from the list.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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