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The Black Book - Part 1
Part 2
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.

In 1979 New Jersey - home of Atlantic City - followed Nevada by introducing its own List of Excluded Persons, which now includes 173 individuals.

Dan 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 these individuals."

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 casino."

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