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What is Nevada’s ‘black book’?

Updated January 2, 2024 - 9:41 am

A new name was added in December to Nevada’s List of Excluded Persons, the so-called “black book” listing of individuals who are forever banned from Nevada casinos.

Mississippi resident Shaun Joseph Benward, a self-described magician and illusionist who worked with an accomplice to distract roulette dealers in schemes to steal money from casinos, was the 36th entry on the list after a vote by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

What exactly is the “black book?”

According to the Control Board, it’s a list of persons compiled since 1960 of persons involved in casino cheating that have a felony conviction, have committed a crime involving “moral turpitude” or violating gaming laws in other states, have failed to disclose an interest in a gaming establishment, willfully evaded paying taxes or have a “notorious and unsavory reputation,” as defined by state and federal investigators.

Gaming industry leaders offer suggestions to regulators about individuals who should be placed on the list. The state’s attorney general’s office evaluates a prospective addition, investigates the individual’s record, then compiles a detailed report. That report summarizes the individual’s transgressions and concludes with a proposal nominating that person to the list through a review and vote by the three-member Gaming Control Board.

While gathering the report takes hours of investigation and research by the attorney general’s office, the session before the Control Board takes about 15-30 minutes.

Once approved, the individual is then notified of the nomination and can request a hearing before the five-member Nevada Gaming Commission to oppose inclusion and can be represented by legal counsel who can gather evidence to counter the allegations.

The commission then has the authority to place the name on the list and it becomes a licensee’s responsibility to keep that person out of the casino. Persons listed on the black book found in casinos can face new misdemeanor criminal charges.

Exceptions to the rule are small restricted licensees, such as convenience stores, restaurants, bars and taverns.

In the case of Benward, the attorney general’s office offered a full report in September and the nomination was unanimously approved. Through a lengthy notification process, it took until late December to prepare for the agenda item to formally place the name on the list.

Unlike some other states, Nevada Control Board agents that oversee the list have purposely kept it small over the years in order to list only the worst of the worst.

Over time, the focus of the list has changed with most of the initial inductees being organized crime figures. Among the earliest names on the list: John Louis Battaglia, Michael Coppola, Louis Tom Dragna, Sam Giancana, and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro.

After the wave of reputed mobsters was added, cheaters who used mechanical devices or distraction techniques were targeted.

Most recently, regulators took a step toward outlawing persons with a history of human trafficking to be banned.

Once a person is named to Nevada’s List of Excluded Persons, they’re there for life – although they can appeal that. No one has ever successfully appealed their placement.

Every couple of years, the attorney general’s office reviews the whereabouts of persons on the list and will seek a regulatory action to purge the names of persons they can confirm have died.

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

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