If you enjoy partaking of the festivities in Las Vegas, it is the one book that you don’t want to find your name in. According to reports from journalist Richard Velotta of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, two new names have been added to the notorious “Black Book.” The new entrants will be forever banned from Nevada’s casinos as a result of their entry.
Ban Result of a Two-Year Assault on the Bellagio
Velotta reports that Anthony Granito and James Cooper were a part of a four-man crew that worked their scam from August 2012 to July 2014. Along with Jeffrey Martin and Mark Branco – who was called the “leader” of the crew and was a former Bellagio craps dealer – the crew would descend on one craps table to work their scam. Branco and Cooper would usually be on the same table, Velotta explains, and as the shooter made his/her toss, Granito or Martin would make what is called a “hop bet.” That is a bet that a specific number would come on the next roll.
Regardless of what happened on the next roll, either Granito or Martin would be paid off on the bet as if they had hit their “hop bet.” The only problem was that, at that time, the Bellagio didn’t have a designated spot on the table for the bets to be placed (and be seen by the “eyes” that watch the casino floor). Although they would “lose” tens of thousands of dollars in bets, they also were able to scam the Bellagio out of over $1.2 million in winnings.
All four of the men were convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016/ Branco, as the ringleader of the crew, currently still resides in the custody of the Nevada State Prison system. Granito, Cooper and Martin have been paroled to probation, but the punishment doesn’t finish there. The Nevada Gaming Control Board brought up hearings on entering the men into the “Black Book” and Granito and Cooper declined the hearing, meaning they would be banned immediately. Martin, according to Velotta, is holding up his right to a hearing, which will be held at the NGCB’s December meeting.
Velotta reports that Cooper and Granito are the 33rd and 34th persons (there is one woman on the list, Sandra Kay Vaccaro, who cheated at slots and was entered into the book in 1987) to earn the permanent casino ban, with Martin likely to end up being the 35th after his December hearing.
What is the “Black Book?”
The “Black Book” is officially called the Nevada Gaming Control Board List of Excluded Persons. It was originally compiled to keep organized crime figures out of the casino, with the first entries being Chicago mob figures like Sam Giancana and Marshall Caifano in 1960 (Giancana was removed in 1975 while Caifano passed away in 2003). Perhaps the most notable Mafia name (other than Giancana) in the book was that of legendary Chicago and Las Vegas mobster Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, who was entered into the book in 1975 but removed after his death in 1986.
Gradually, however, the “Black Book” became a way to banish those who had committed crimes against the casinos in the form of cheating. Although Vaccaro was one of the first slot cheats to earn a spot in the book (and, to this point, the only woman), the most notorious case regarding the “Black Book” involved one of the NGCB’s own. Ronald Harris was a computer expert who worked for the NGCB back in 1990s before embarking on a scam to cheat the very machines he was working on. In 1997, Harris was convicted in the scam and served two years in prison before he was paroled, but he also earned a spot in the “Black Book” from his actions.
Just What Does the Ban Entail?
Under Nevada’s gaming laws, anyone in the “Black Book” cannot enter a gaming establishment in the state, punishable by a misdemeanor charge. There are exemptions for airports and establishments with fewer than 15 slot machines and no table games. Additionally, casino operators who allow a person in the “Black Book” to play at their establishment can be heavily fined and could lose their gaming license.
As stated previously, there are now 34 (and potentially 35) members on the list. In the past, 16 people have been on the list but since have been removed and seven have faced inclusion but had their hearing exonerate them from being put on the list. As you can see, it is an exclusive club – but it is one that you don’t want to be a part of!