The names are Scorsese flick-worthy: Francis “Lefty” Rosenthal; Dominic Anthony Spinale; Joseph Vincent Cusumano. Their crimes, the stuff of wise-guy legend: Louis Tom Dragna led organized crime in Southern California; Buffalo mobster Stephen Anthony Cino racked up a laundry list of charges, from robbery to extortion. Their bravado, incomparable: Fred Anthony Pascente was a Chicago detective busted for mail fraud and linked to the Chicago mob; Timothy John Childs once listed “slot cheat” as his occupation on a loan application; repeat felon Frank Citro (racketeering, loan-sharking, illegal bookmaking) showed up at his Nevada Black Book hearing in a tuxedo and told commissioners, “I’ve never been invited to join anything in my life; I just wanted to show the proper respect.”
Two weeks ago the state Gaming Control Board nominated slot cheat William Cushing for inclusion in Nevada’s Black Book—also known as the more officious-sounding List of Excluded Persons. If inducted, he’ll be the 36th person banned from state casinos—the first since 2004. Created in 1967, the Black Book, according to UNLV gaming researcher David Schwartz, played a role in pushing the mafia out and corporations in.
Getting into the Black Book is rather easy. All you need is a prior felony, a conviction for violating gaming and tax laws, hidden interest (but no license) in a gaming establishment or a rep so notorious or unsavory that it erodes public confidence in the gaming industry. Good luck getting out, though. “About the only way is a judicial review, and that’s never been successful,” says Jerry Markling, chief of enforcement for the Gaming Control Board.
But casino banishment doesn’t mean a lifetime of playing Tonk. You can still drop a quarter in a slot machine. “They can go in restricted locations, places with 16 or fewer slots,” Markling says. “If there are more than 16 slots, it must be a slots-only facility.”
Or you could be Douglas William Barr bold: Three of his 150-plus arrests (mostly for gambling crimes) came after his Black Book inclusion. His son, also Douglas (they’re the only father-son tandem), has been arrested more than 30 times on gambling charges. The lone woman on the list, Sandra Vaccaro, organized a slot-cheating operation, along with husband John Vaccaro, that stole millions from Nevada casinos. Scofflaws can get a return trip to the clink. Says Markling: “It’s a gross misdemeanor if they violate the order; that can mean up to a year in jail.”
There is a list longer and maybe more onerous than the Black Book. From 1980 to March of this year, 112 individuals have been found unsuitable for a gaming license or have had licenses denied or revoked. “It’s very intense, probably one of the most intrusive processes ever,” Schwartz says. “You’re asked questions like what car do you drive. Most honest people would have trouble getting a gaming license in Nevada.”