The Black Book of Cheaters in Las Vegas

By | July 6, 2017

Enter the intimidating building on 300 Stewart Avenue and Third, turn left and you’ll see displayed a “Black Book.” Next to the volume is a page on former Nevada mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro. Tony’s name was removed from the book only after he died.

For every conman and mobster who dies and is removed from the book, two more are added.

Nevada law says a person can be placed in the book if their presence in a casino presents a “menace to the concerns of the state, to authorized gaming, or both.” 

To determine a person’s eligibility for the list, the state’s board and gaming commission look at several things including felony sentences, crimes involving moral turpitude and breaches of state gaming regulations.

Most of the entries in Nevada’s famous ”Black Book” are run-of-the-mill cons, cheats, and schemers.

A few are worth nothing for their ingenuity if nothing else.

The Tran Group

When the group was finally brought down, the swindlers had swindled over $15 million from casinos across America and Canada.

The California-based group sought the assistance of insiders such as casino dealers and supervisors. In exchange for bribes, the casino workers would perform false shuffles during baccarat games. Before the false shuffles, the swindlers would record the cards’ order. With this information, the cons would win numerous hands.

The shysters also made use of computer programs, hidden microphones and transmitters according to the FBI’s report filed.

In Vegas, the Tran Organization hit Palace Station and Monte Carlo. By early 2011, over 40 defendants pleaded guilty to cheating casinos.

The “Cutters.”

A hidden video camera was used along the Pacific Rim by this Malaysian group. The outfit, known as the “cutters,” would hide a video camera in a jacket sleeve to capture the cards’ order. The recording happened during the deck-cutting process and before the cards were shuffled.

The cheat would pull a plastic cut card across the top of the deck, exposing the index corners of the cards permitting the recording. 

The group scammed Las Vegas casinos out of over $1 million in January alone.

Dennis Nikrasch

Nikrasch, who has been called the “mastermind” of the largest slot-cheating scheme in Nevada’s history used a simple slot machine key to defeat security.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Nikrasch, and his buddies would make an imprint of a slot machine cabinet key while distracting the machine’s repairman. Then would later use the key to open the machine and rig the machine by setting the reels on a winning jackpot combination.

Nikrasch was caught and spent time in prison before using more sophisticated methods to cheat the same machine. All together, Nikrasch garnered over $16 million from his scams and got him entry into Nevada’s ‘black book,’ a list of people banned for life from the state’s casinos.

Card Switching

Robert Ailse and John Dixon used card switching starting in the 1980s. They would sit next to each other and take one card from their hand while placing the other card under the table. They exchanged the cards and slipped the received card under their wager. The obvious goal was to make a hand stronger.

The scheme involved others to act as lookouts or barriers. Both jobs were often filled by cocktail-dress-wearing waitresses too happy to pick up a few extra dollars. 

Tommy Carmichael 

Carmichael is another con-man who earned a coveted spot in Nevada’s black book. The ‘Thomas Edison” of Vegas invented numerous devices to use in cheating slot machines.

One was a light want which would trick slot machines into handing out more points. The 7-inch wand held a battery, magnet, and tiny light and would steal a couple of hundred dollars at a time.

Carmichael was caught and convicted of cheating — twice. Once in Nevada and again in New Jersey.

Dice Sliding in Craps

Here’s how the scam works. A shooter tosses the dice in such a way that one die slides down the table without rolling over. The other bounces and shimmies down the table. Since the one dies slides but never turns, the possible dice combinations are trimmed from 36 to 6.

Bettors place bets on those six possible outcomes and go home with the cash. In October Wynn Las Vegas filed a lawsuit in Clark County’s District Court from a pair of Argentine gamblers who got used dice sliding to steal almost a million dollars.

Just in case you’re wondering. Death is the only way to get your page-of-honor removed from The Black Book.

About Author

Nick Wooldridge, Esq is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Las Vegas, NV. He has a vast portfolio of successful criminal trials across the U.S. Nick is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.

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