|The Black Book - Part 1
| Las Vegas conjures up images of
glad-handing commissionaires, eager-to-help bellboys and endless complimentary
drinks. But the city is keen to shake off its underworld reputation and many of
those with shady pasts are distinctly unwelcome.
Every cop in every
town knows who the bad guys are but in Las Vegas they have a public register of
people declared persona non grata. The List of Excluded Persons, better known
as the Black Book, actually covers the whole of Nevada but its main aim is to
protect the jewel in the state's gambling crown, Las Vegas, from corruption.
The first thing you notice is that its not black.
Once on the list, they face a criminal charge if
they enter a gaming establishment. The legality of the exclusion list has
survived numerous court challenges, right up to the Supreme Court.
There are currently 35 names in the Black Book. The latest to be
nominated for the unenviable honour was Ramon Pereira, who was added to the
list last month. Pereira, 54, had four felony convictions for slot machine
cheating and is facing a federal trial later this year accused of manufacturing
a device which would have been capable of defrauding the casinos of thousands
of dollars. It is tempting to think of his character at the card table as
revealing. The columnist Victoria Coren recalls how, as a player, 'he always
reminded me of the opening lines of Cincinnati Kid: "He was a tight man.
Everything about him was close and quiet, his gestures were short and cleared
with no wasted movement."'
The Black Book was created in 1960 by
Nevada's gaming authorities, who feared a crackdown by the federal government.
Las Vegas's gambling industry is worth billions of dollars Nevada's then
governor, Grant Sawyer, believed if they did not act to control mob influence
in the state's legal gaming industry, Congress would effectively eliminate it
through high federal taxes.
One of the first to be installed in the
book was Sam Giancana, the legendary Chicago mafia boss, who spent a great deal
of time in Vegas. The Chicago mob invested a lot of money in the city's casinos
and felt entitled to skim their profits.
Giancana, whose name became
synonymous with shadow conspiracy theories against President John F Kennedy and
his brother Robert, was only removed from the book on his death in 1975.
Another example was Anthony "Tony The Ant" Spilotro - the basis of the
Joe Pesci character in the movie Casino. He was entered in the Black Book in
1978. A former jewel thief, he was brought to Vegas as the Chicago mob's
enforcer but was later murdered - beaten to death in a cornfield, along with
his brother in 1986 - when his excessive violence began to embarrass his
bosses. His position in the book, which meant he was unable to enter Nevada
casinos, may have also persuaded his bosses he was no longer useful.
1979 New Jersey - home of Atlantic City - followed Nevada by introducing its
own List of Excluded Persons, which now includes 173 individuals.
Eitner, director of surveillance at the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, said
while the Black Book only contained 34 names, there were many more people who
were unwelcome in his casino.
"All the casinos share a database of
individuals who are either cheats, card counters or thieves," he said. "We are
linked up to the internet connected to a secured server, which has pictures of
Mr Eitner keeps an eye out for unwelcome guests
with the help of 700 close circuit cameras hidden in the ceiling of the casino
and communicates with uniformed and plain clothes security staff on the casino
floor using mobile phones or walkie talkies. But he said: "In the seven years
I've worked in Nevada I've only seen one of the people on the Black Book in my
In 1996 a notorious Vegas mobster, Herbie Blitzstein, was
nominated for the book, but he was murdered by several Los Angeles gangster
before he could join the club. While the Black Book remains useful in combating
the visible presence of the Mafia in Las Vegas, it is redundant in the new
world of internet gambling.
Part 2 shows the people in the Black
Book - next week