Land-based casinos tolerate plenty of questionable behavior from customers, whether it be players getting agitated with dealers or having too much to drink.
Like any other business, casinos must put up with mild customer drama. Otherwise, they’d quickly find themselves struggling if they kicked out every annoying player.
But there are things that casinos won’t tolerate from customers, including advantage players, cheaters, and people with certain felony convictions.
Casinos use what’s commonly referred to as a black book to track banned players. But what exactly happens when you’re added to the black book?
Find out as I cover what this term means, why casinos ban players, trespassing charges, and what you can do to get unbanned from a casino.
What Is a Casino Black Book?
The term black book originally came from Nevada’s efforts to identify mobsters and other criminals who are banned for life from casinos. But it’s evolved to include any list of banned players, whether they be advantage gamblers, cheaters, or criminals.
Many Las Vegas casinos were run by mobsters up until the 1970s and 80s. But state politicians worked to push organized crime out of the city.
This was the inspiration for the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s first Black Book, which listed dozens of organized crime figures and notable people with felony convictions.
Sam Giancana was one of the original mafia members who ruled Vegas. He controlled many Sin City casinos in the 1950s and 60s and earned over $2 billion annually for the mob.
The Las Vegas Review Journal notes that Giancana was the first name added to the Gaming Control Board’s original Black Book.
John Battaglia, a gangster from LA, was the Black Book’s second entry. He was another Vegas figure who controlled casino action for the mafia.
Louis Tom Dragna was the third person to be officially blacklisted from Nevada casinos. Dragna was LA’s top mob boss in the 1950s and had his hand in Sin City too.
The Black Book is no longer a physical black book. Instead, it’s evolved into an online information database that lists cheaters and gaming industry figures with felony convictions.
Any Black Book member who enters a Nevada casino will likely be convicted on gross misdemeanor charges.
The Review Journal notes that Roderick William Dee II — a famous slots cheat — was the latest addition in 2013. But Dee was removed after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Nevada casinos are bound by law to prevent Black Book members from entering their premises. They can get in trouble with the Gaming Control Board if they fail to take proper precautions in doing so.
Griffin Investigations featured another example of a black book or the “Griffin Book” in this case. The agency was hired by casinos to investigate both cheaters and successful advantage gamblers.
Griffin Investigations gained notoriety for taking down the MIT Blackjack Team. They tracked the players to Boston-area universities like Harvard and MIT, then found yearbook photos of the team members.
They added the MIT Blackjack Team to the Griffin Book and shared it with interested casinos for a subscription fee. Gambling establishments used this info to identify the players and subsequently blacklist them.
Griffin continued their work by finding more advantage gamblers and casino cheaters. The company grew so large that over half of American casinos were subscribing to the Griffin Book at one time.
But they were eventually undone by a defamation suit brought on by professional gamblers James Grosjean and Michael Russo. The players also included Imperial Palace (now Linq) and Caesars Palace in the lawsuit for illegal detainment.
Grosjean and Russo won the lawsuit and bankrupted Griffin Investigations in the process, due to legal fees and settlements.
A black book can also refer to an unofficial list of banned players that casinos keep. If the MGM issues a lifetime ban, for example, that gambler isn’t allowed to enter any of their properties worldwide.
Why Do Casinos Blacklist Players?
As I’ve touched on, cheating and advantage play are two major reasons why casinos add gamblers to their black book.
Cheaters are an easy call to ban because they’re breaking the law to gain an unfair edge. These players are not only blacklisted but also face serious legal ramifications.
Advantage players are a murkier topic because they’re not breaking the law nor are they bothering customers or dealers. And as Grosjean’s and Russo’s case proved, casinos can open themselves to lawsuits when improperly dealing with pro gamblers.
But casinos are private establishments that have the right to refuse service. They just need to make sure that they don’t discriminate against players for any reason or mishandle situations.
You’ve probably heard stories of Vegas casino security beating players up for counting cards. But these tales came from the old days of Sin City, when the mob ran casinos.
Things are much different today. Corporations run casinos and are subject to more lawsuits than ever before.
This makes it important that they have just cause before tossing players out. Furthermore, they don’t want to jump the gun and ban a good customer under the assumption that they’re an advantage gambler.
One more reason why players are blacklisted is when they voluntarily put themselves on a self-exclusion list. These lists allow problem gamblers to ban themselves from the casino for a specified amount of the time.
Most states offer exclusion ranges spanning from one year to a lifetime. Anybody who violates their self-excluded ban will be charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
What Happens When You’re in the Black Book?
No matter if you’re in an official black book like the Nevada Gaming Board’s or on a single casino’s blacklist, you are not permitted to step foot onto the property. The entire reason for the ban is that casino management has decided that you’re a bad customer or a cheater.
Casinos keep records on blacklisted gamblers through photo IDs and possibly fingerprints. It’s common for security to photocopy an advantage player’s ID and get fingerprints.
These methods are used to identify banned gamblers in case they enter the casino again. If you’re in a casino’s black book, then it’s not in your best interests to revisit them.
The biggest reason why, is that gambling establishments will charge you with trespassing if you’re caught. The law will be on their side too because management/security made it clear that you’re not welcome in their venue.
It’s also unlikely that you’ll get away with trespassing, given that casinos will have your ID and fingerprints on hand. Casinos also use modern technology like facial recognition to help identify blacklisted players.
Of course, it’s difficult for surveillance to scan every gambler and their establishment. But the mere threat that they could make you file trespassing charges is enough to keep most banned players away.
Casinos can even go so far as to use license plate recognition programs to spot banned players. This gives them yet another tool to scare blacklisted players away.
Receiving a casino ban doesn’t mean that you’ll only be barred from that company’s properties. Some casino resorts share their blacklist with surrounding gambling venues.
This happens in Maryland, which has ejected and banned thousands of players since 2010. Maryland casinos share this info with establishments in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
The other casinos that receive the information can’t technically arrest you for trespassing. But they can use the info to identify you and later bar you.
What Happens if You’re Arrested for Trespassing at a Casino?
States and gambling jurisdictions have different laws on trespassing. Therefore, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in every case when a blacklisted player gets caught.
But Nevada sets the trend with many things in gambling, including how trespassers are prosecuted.
According to Pandullo Law, NRS 207.200 states that people can be found guilty of criminal trespassing through one of three ways:
- 1) Having the intent to antagonize or annoy the property owner.
- 2) Entering the property to “commit any unlawful act,” such as selling drugs or committing burglary.
- 3) Going onto the property “after having been warned by the owner or occupant… not to trespass.”
The third point is key in this case because casinos tell blacklisted players to stay away. Therefore, the prosecution can use this as evidence against the perpetrator.
But casinos can’t just verbally tell you to leave and then expect you to later be found guilty. Instead, they use the previously described means to record your identity and also write a letter indicating that you’re banned.
The letter is concrete evidence that a player isn’t supposed to be on the property. The prosecution will have an airtight case against anybody who’s been served a written ban.
NRS 207.210 states that the maximum penalty for violating trespassing laws is a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Of course, first-time offenders will likely only deal with the fine.
The cause of the blacklisting will also weigh into the judge’s decision. For example, a first-time offender may be treated differently in court compared to a trespassing cheater.
Is There Anything You Can Do to Get Out Off the Blacklist?
When casinos add players to their Black Book, it’s meant to be for life. But do you have any recourse after being banned from your favorite casino?
The answer depends upon the situation and why you’re blacklisted from a gambling venue.
The easiest way to get unbanned is by taking necessary measures to remove yourself from a self-exclusion list. According to the Iowa Gaming Association, a player who self-imposes a lifetime ban can get off the excluded list after they’ve been on it for five years.
Doing so requires completing necessary forms that are available through the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. Those who turn in an application must wait for written confirmation from the commission.
The process for getting yourself off these lists will vary based on the state. The Iowa example shows that lifetime, self-excluded gamblers can only apply after waiting five years.
If you’ve been blacklisted for berating a dealer, being intoxicated, or any other disorderly matter, then you can try contacting management and explaining your story. You should also issue an apology and appeal to the casino’s business side by stating how much you gamble in their establishment.
This may not ultimately work, because security bans players for a reason. But it’s worth trying if you really like a certain spot and want to be removed from their black book.
Advantage gamblers won’t be welcome back to a casino no matter how much they beg. They’re deemed bad customers since they win profits rather than give them up to the house.
But this won’t stop some players from returning to the casino with a disguise. The gambling world is filled with accounts of advantage players who’ve been arrested for trespassing after being caught.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t fool the casino and continue gambling on their property. You have a better chance when visiting at busy times, which makes it harder for surveillance to properly identify everybody.
Shorting your sessions and is another way to continue playing for profits when you’re blacklisted. Playing 1-2 blackjack shoes and getting out can be just the right amount before security spots you.
This same practices can work for cheaters who’ve been caught. But keep in mind that you’re risking felony charges for both cheating and trespassing.
How to Avoid being Banned from Casinos
The measures you take to avoid being banned from casinos depend upon what type of incident you’re talking about.
Obvious things that you must avoid include treating casino staff poorly, being drunk and obnoxious, and cheating. All of these are surefire ways to get 86’ed from a casino.
The self-exclusion list will ban you for however long you’ve specified. But I thoroughly recommend considering this option if you do have a gambling problem and are betting funds you can’t avoid to lose.
Advantage gamblers have the most difficult path towards avoiding the black book. Casinos take this matter seriously and employ a number of means to identify professionals.
The number one thing you need to do is avoid being obvious. A perfect example is a blackjack card counter who uses a big bet spread, which refers to the distance between your minimum bet (used during unfavorable count) and largest wager (used during favorable count).
If the table minimum bet is $5 and you increase bets to $40 during a positive count, then your spread is 1-8 (i.e. $40 is 8x the minimum bet). This can be acceptable on a number of low-stakes tables, depending upon the casino.
Most professional blackjack players have trouble getting away with a 1-15 spread, let alone the 1-100 spread that Affleck was using.
He was warned by Wynn casino management to tone down his betting movement. Given that Affleck is a big-time celebrity, they let him pass without kicking him off the tables.
Affleck wasn’t so lucky at the Hard Rock Las Vegas, though, where he was asked to play different games because he’s “too good at blackjack.”
Hole carding — an advantage play technique where you try to see the dealer’s face-down cards — is another instance where you want to avoid giving yourself away.
Skilled hole carders sit in the right seat (dealer’s immediate left or right) and are able to check for exposed hole cards in a controlled manner. It helps if you keep your eyes level as level to table as possible without sitting in an unnatural manner.
But inexperienced hole carders give themselves away by leaning too much and making it obvious that they’re peaking. This is easy to spot for veteran casino security.
One more step is to avoid trying to fool casinos when black chips ($100) are involved. Gambling venues track black chips to prevent ratholing, where advantage players discreetly remove these chips to give the illusion that they’re losing money.
If you’re winning a lot and security catches you pocketing black chips, then the chances of being caught increase.
Casinos don’t mind players winning money and having a good time. But they draw the line when it comes to violating certain spoken and unspoken rules.
Most people are fully aware that they can’t treat employees or other players like crap. But certain gamblers have difficulty with obvious rules, especially when they’re drinking.
It’s completely understandable when gambling venues ban these types of players. They hurt business and also make other customers feel uncomfortable.
Cheaters will be 86’ed without question and also subjected to prosecution. They’ll also be added to a black book and have their information shared within the area.
Advantage players are an interesting breed because they’re not breaking any laws. But they violate an unwritten rule, which is that the casino is supposed to have an edge.
If you’re a casual gambler who wants to avoid being blacklisted, make sure to avoid the practices that we’ve covered here. Assuming you’re ever banned from a casino, stay away to avoid trespassing chargers.