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Newest ‘Black Book’ candidate not a casino cheat or mob affiliate

Updated August 24, 2022 - 1:02 pm

The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday will consider banning a Las Vegas man from Nevada casinos because of his history of assaults on women and forcing women into prostitution at Strip resorts.

Commissioners will consider placing Kendrick Laronte Weatherspoon on the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s List of Excluded Persons — the state’s so-called “Black Book.”

The addition of Weatherspoon would be historic because it would be the first time a person made the list for acts other than cheating casino games or being associated with organized crime. If confirmed, he would become the 36th person placed on the list and the first since four men were placed on it in November and December 2018.

A Control Board spokesman gave no indication whether Weatherspoon intends to challenge the listing and whether he or a representative would attend Thursday’s hearing.

If Weatherspoon is included on the list, Nevada casinos would be responsible for preventing him from patronizing their properties.

In testimony presented before the Control Board in January, Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael Somps said Weatherspoon satisfied two criteria for inclusion on the list: that he has a prior felony conviction in Nevada and that he “has a notorious or unsavory reputation that would adversely affect public confidence and trust that the gaming industry is free from criminal or corrupt developments.”

Somps said Weatherspoon has instructed women to go to Strip casinos to engage in prostitution, and he has been removed from at least five different Las Vegas casinos for his activities.

In one instance, a woman at Paris Las Vegas changed her mind about seeking a customer, and upon returning home, alleged that Weatherspoon was there and he “proceeded to batter her and sexually assault her,” according to a police report. An Uber driver called police about the attack.

Thirty cases in 21 years

Weatherspoon has 30 cases in Las Vegas Justice Court from 2000 through 2021. His criminal history in Clark County District Court began in 1996 when he pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge.

Five of the Las Vegas cases involved cocaine sales. He was charged with four misdemeanor impaired-driving charges in 2014 and his first violent charge, of domestic battery, was brought to court in 2013.

In June 2021, he was charged with sex trafficking of an adult, battery by strangulation, sex assault, kidnapping and burglary. A woman told police that she met Weatherspoon at Casino Royale and he offered to “basically be your pimp” helping her make money as a sex worker, according to the arrest report.

She tried to stop being a sex worker by running away, after Weatherspoon dropped her off at The Venetian. But he later showed up at her apartment, grabbing her by the throat and choking her before he raped her, she told police.

He pleaded guilty to coercion and was sentenced to probation.

In 2019, he was charged with sex trafficking of an adult, domestic battery and accepting the earnings of a prostitute. The case was closed after he completed six months of domestic violence counseling and community service.

Discouraging human trafficking

During the Control Board’s January meeting, members debated whether they should take the unprecedented step of banning someone without a history of cheating at gambling or participating in organized crime.

“Initially, (it was) designed to insure that people affiliated with the mob could be excluded from licensed gaming,” Somps told board members. “But, of course, the statute is much broader than that and encompasses someone like (Weatherspoon) who is being considered today.”

Board Chairman Brin Gibson said he didn’t think the board should attempt to put every convicted felon in the “Black Book.” But board members unanimously felt they wanted to set an example in regards to prostitution and human trafficking.

“We’re not going to go out and exclude every felon in the state,” Gibson said. “I mean, in this case, I guess for my part, legal and highly regulated gaming cannot be associated with human trafficking, period, and that is the threat to the reputation of the state.”

Board members particularly wanted to discourage traffickers from using casinos as a base of operation for prostitution.

Bellagio cheaters were last case

Weatherspoon’s inclusion on the list would be the first in nearly 3½ years.

In November 2018, four men were considered for inclusion on the list after they were convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison.

Commissioners placed Bellagio craps dealer Mark Branco, the ringleader, Anthony Grant Granito and James Russell Cooper on the list when they were convicted of cheating at the craps tables of the casino. Branco’s brother-in-law, Jeffrey Martin, was added to the list the next month after he chose to fight the designation before the commission and lost in the December hearing.

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.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Review-Journal writer Sabrina Schnur contributed to this report.

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