As Nevada's gaming market confronts new challenges, regulators are focused on updating the state’s List of Excluded Persons, more commonly referred to as the Black Book, the exclusive and life-long club for those unsavory characters gaming officials have barred from entering Nevada casinos.
Those selected for inclusion on the list from its inception in 1960 include a list of prominent mobsters and card cheats to more recently include those with records of violence against women.
“The health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the state and also the gaming industry are a primary focus for us,” Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) chairman J. Brin Gibson told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
Gibson cited the case of Kendrick Laronte Weatherspoon, who was recently added to the Black Book after an “incident that involved safety on property or using the property as sort of a stage.”
Weatherspoon, who has a record of assaulting women, in August became the 36th person added to the Black Book.
There is also the case of Leonard Morgan Hairston, who the NGCB recommended for inclusion on the list but awaits approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC).
Hairston has been arrested some three dozen times by state gaming agents for the theft of casino chips or the production of counterfeit chips.
“My philosophy has been to look at what is the current threat,” said James Taylor, the NGCB’s chief of enforcement for more than 25 years who officially retired on Friday (October 28), of the Black Book.
“Obviously in the 1960s, and 1970s and into the early 1980s it was mobsters,” Taylor said. “When I took over the book in 1996, we did mostly cheats. We did plenty of mafia members but that was starting to wane. They weren’t running around our casinos and were not owning the casinos at that stage.”
Taylor added that the mafia still had a presence in southern Nevada and were targeted by authorities back in the 1990s, but with the induction of Tasia McDonald Musa that was more of a nuisance crime of opportunity.
Musa was placed on the List of Excluded Persons on January 29, 2015, for his seven felony convictions involving larceny in casinos.
“We followed that up with Joseph Moody, who targeted elderly people at kiosks. Over 100 incidents from Moody alone,” Taylor said. “That was the current threat.”
He described Weatherspoon’s activity as a current threat to the gaming industry.
“That’s what everyone is talking about is human trafficking and the trick rolls in Las Vegas. Even though it’s not widely reported … the trick rolls in Las Vegas are through the roof and all the properties are complaining about it.”
A trick roll is when a sex worker commits robbery or larceny on a client or potential client irrespective of whether any sex takes place. Taylor said most of the cases go unreported because most of the victims would not want their partners to know they were trick rolled in Las Vegas.
“Some of those turn pretty violent, so when we can identify a pimp whose has so many instances of problems in casinos and violence against women in casinos that was really important to push [Weatherspoon] through.”
“What the next threat is, I don’t know,” Taylor said, “but the book needs to evolve to include those who are truly a threat to the current status of the industry.”
Taylor and Gibson discussed casino security during an hour-long interview with VIXIO GamblingCompliance that also included John Lastusky, senior engineer with the NGCB.
Taylor is being replaced as chief of the NGCB's enforcement division by Kristi Torgerson, who has been with the NGCB since 1997 and has worked as deputy chief of the enforcement division since 2019.
With security and updating out-of-date regulations among his current priorities, Gibson also spoke with VIXIO about the need for the widespread adoption of cashless gaming, cryptocurrency, and his experience as chairman over the last two years.
“That needs to be the future,” Gibson said about the adoption of cashless wagering.
“In a perfect world, doing anti-money laundering or complying with the Bank Secrecy Act would be much easier if everything was account-based.”
Gibson said the challenge with adopting cashless wagering is getting people to feel comfortable with the technology.
“Much like electronic table games that had no play before the pandemic, now we are seeing their popularity rise,” the chairman said. “The same issue exists in cashless. People need to get accustomed to it.”
Gibson also said the environment the gaming industry operates in today is quite different from when Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak selected him to become chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) two years ago.
Gibson, a former deputy attorney general, was in private practice with the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Las Vegas before he took over as the state's top gaming regulatory official in November 2020, shortly after the state’s multi-billion dollar casino business had emerged from its 78-day coronavirus shutdown.
Gibson noted that Nevada has a “history of reinventing itself and pivoting in new economic directions to make up for whatever the loss might be in some other space.”
Both Gibson and Taylor spoke about how southern Nevada has benefitted economically from the arrival of professional sports.
The Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League have been a success ever since they came into existence in June 2016 and beginning play during the 2017-2018 season. The NFL Oakland Raiders' relocation to Las Vegas and Allegiant Stadium in January 2020 has also benefited the gaming industry.
“Sports have become a huge dynamic here,” Gibson said. “They are closely related to the casinos because hotel occupancy [benefits] when they come in to watch games, and they gamble. That has been a driver in itself. It has been huge.”