History Behind the Black Book of Vegas

Hands Holding Open a Book With a Vegas Strip Image

Las Vegas, NV. You think of mega casinos with posh hotels. You think of the endless buffet options and how you’re going to fit it all on your plate.

What most people don’t think about is a mysterious “black book” that has been circulating around the Vegas’s casinos since 1960. The infamous Black Book is a list of every gambler that has been excommunicated from the casinos in Las Vegas.

This is a tale of mobsters, old Vegas, and how to get yourself banned from casinos. The men and 1 woman on this list in the Black Book have been portrayed in movies and some you’ve never heard of.

Let’s dive in.

What is the Black Book?

This is a member only club that people don’t want to join. The black book club is an exclusive group of people that is made up of just 35 members.

The Vegas Black Book Club is harder to get into than the TAO nightclub at the Venetian. The Tao is famous for its strict door and dress code policies. The Vegas Black Book Club is older and even harder to get into.

The Black Book Club is a list of all the gamblers that have attempted, and some successfully, cheated or swindled the some of the biggest casinos on the Strip.

The Black Book started as a handwritten list in a black book in 1960.

Since its creation, the black book club has moved to the hands of the Gaming Control Board Excluded Persons List.

Let’s call a spade a spade. The Black Book List or Club is a list of all the people that have been banned from entering ANY casino in Nevada.

The Black Book List is now managed by the Gaming Control board and they are not a bunch to be messed with. This is serious business.

If your name is on the Book List, then your identity is seared into the memory of every pit boss in the state of Nevada. If you attempt to set foot in any casino in the entire state you will be quickly removed from the property.

I’ll repeat that. You will be kicked out of any casino in the entire state of Nevada. How does one get their name on this notorious list? What in God’s name did they do? Let’s take a look.

Why Does the Black Book List Exist?

As I mentioned, the Black Book List was 1st released in 1960 after the recommendations from the Kefauver Hearings in the United States Senate.

This was one of the 1st major federal investigations into organized crime (mobs) in the USA. 1950’s Las Vegas was a stark contrast from the glitz and glam we think of modern Vegas’s mega casinos.

In the 1950’s Chicago mobsters ruled several of the major casinos. Think famed mob boss Bugsy Siegel. He used extortion, fear, violence and game rigging to make Vegas his own personal ATM.

This time period has been glamourized in more movies than we have time to review in this post. Check out the movie Casino if you’ve been in a coma for the last 30 years. I kid of course. But seriously, go watch Casino.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board was created to begin the crack down on organized crime in Las Vegas. They wanted to clean up the city’s reputation and start to draw tourists from Middle America.

View of Las Vegas MGM Grand and Luxor

The Gaming Control Board decided to make a public blacklist of the famous mobsters to keep the casino operators in the loop. This would be the first time the Black Book List was in public circulation. It worked, it worked well.

The Nevada Supreme Court released the list so that the casinos could make sure to “continue avoiding any potentially significant criminal or corruptive taint and thus maintain public confidence and trust in the gambling industry”.

The mobsters that were on the Black Book List weren’t concerned about the list at first. This cavalier attitude quickly changed. The Las Vegas Gaming Control Board rapidly made itself a the top dog in SIn City.

The Board enforced with blacklist with a strong fist and had no mercy for the gangsters on the blacklist. This ensured that none of the mobsters could even get close to the front doors of their favorite Las Vegas Casinos.

The Vegas Black Book list became the most terrifying thing for mobsters in Las Vegas. The list quickly became feared and built street cred with it’s opponents as something to avoided at all costs.

Las Vegas Black Book in Culture

The Black Book has impacted modern Vegas as we know it to be today. Remember the movie I told you to watch? Let’s talk about that.

The award-winning movie by Martin Scorsese, Casino, has multiple characters based off true life people on this feared list. That fear was so deep that one of the best film makers America has to offer depicted the Black Book list in his movies.

Who Is On the Black Book List?

As of May 2020, there are 35 men and women on the Las Vegas Black Book List. You can view the full list on the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s website. Take a look. It’s an interesting view into the American gambling scene’s past.

The list consists of outlandish cheaters that have been caught using intricate systems to cheat the casinos out of millions of dollars while playing anything from the slot machines to baccarat.

You may not know several of the names but there are some members in this exclusive club that you will recognize. The Black Book List has some of the most significant monsters from the last century.

Tony “The Ant” Spilotro (who inspired Scorsese’s character Nicky) is on the list for his attempts to coerce and terrify casino employees, There is also John Vaccaro who organized the largest slot scam in history under the direction of one of California’s most famous crime families.

Las Vegas Strip Store Fronts

John’s wife Sandy is the only woman currently on the list. She assisted in the slot-fixing scam. A family that gets blacklisted together stay together??? Probably not the best marriage advice.

The most recent inductee to the Black Book List was 2 years ago. In 2018, Jeffery Martin was the first person added to the list in over 10 years. Martin was the head as a complicated scheme to cheat at the craps tables.

Martin and his 2 accomplices managed to cheat the Bellagio Casino and Hotel out of over 1 million dollars over many years.

Martin has appealed the Las Vegas GCB several time to have his name removed. This is despite being diagnosed as a compulsive gambler. THE LV GCB has said no every time. It is almost impossible to get your name removed form this notorious list.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Vegas Black Book

With the most recent addition to the Black Book here are some questions I get every time I have brought up this feared little book at a party or BBQ:

How Do You Get Listed?

Well, in short, a lot of work. A lot of hard work. The Las Vegas gaming authorities arrest people for felony gambling crimes daily. If they put everyone in the Black Book, there would be 1000s instead of the 35 current members.

The Black Book would lose its notoriety and just become a list of criminals. It just wouldn’t be cool, in my opinion, either.

How Do You Get Your Name Removed?

You most likely won’t. There is an official appeal process but only one member has been successful in having their name removed since 1967. It’s basically a lifetime membership. Good luck.

What Happens if You’re on the LIst and Go in a Casino?

It’s a class A misdemeanor. This charge carries up to a year in prison. Most likely if you’re on the list you’re also on probation if not paroles. This would be considered a violation or either legal standing.

On top of the personal offenses, any land-based casino that doesn’t abide by the Black Book List is subject to penalties as well.

Is There an Actual Black Book?

There was. The is not an actual black book in a physical form anymore. Like most other police and government documentation, the black book has moved to an online format.

The Vegas Black Book started as a simple letter in 1960. It then was presented as a black binder with pamphlets inside. By the end of the 1990s it had moved to an electronic format.

What Is the Future of the Black Book List?

The Casino Black Book has been questioned recently if it is still relevant or even needed in Las Vegas.

Gamblers attempting to cheat the modern mega casinos seem to have given up. Its incredibly rare to successfully cheat the casinos in current times.

Cheating is not impossible, but it is pretty close to extinct. The organized crime families have moved away from Vegas leaving it as the tourist destination it dreamed of being in the 1950s.

Not only has Vegas become a tamer version of its former self, more and more gamblers are moving to online casinos, Players of the traditional table games and slots have started to shift to online casinos thanks to loosening of American gambling laws.

It is almost a futile effort to attempt to cheat an online casino. The random number generators have almost eliminated card counting and most of the old school attempts to cheat at a casino game.

The Black Book is a tribute to Vegas’s torrid past and organized crime that just isn’t present in modern day Vegas. Like pay phones and Blockbuster, time will only tell if the famed Black Book Club will continue to strike terror in schemers and cheaters in Las Vegas and Nevada as a whole.

Time is the only constant. Happy gambling.