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Magician Casino Ban and Slot Route Operator Expansion

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The Nevada Gaming Commission made headlines recently when it unanimously voted to add a Mississippi resident, Shaun Joseph Benward, to the state's notorious "black book" - a list of individuals banned from entering major casinos in the state. Benward, who describes himself as a magician and illusionist, faced this ban due to a series of convictions related to cheating at roulette in multiple states.

Roulette Cheater's Elaborate Scheme

Benward's modus operandi involved gaining the trust of roulette dealers through conversation before surreptitiously placing late bets on the wheel. He would then convince the dealers that they had mistakenly placed his chips on the wrong number, often with the help of an accomplice who corroborated his story. This scheme allowed him to repeatedly cheat casinos out of thousands of dollars, leading to convictions and arrests in various states, including Nevada.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael Somps presented Benward's case to the commission, highlighting that Benward satisfied all four criteria for possible exclusion: violations of gaming laws, crimes involving moral turpitude, a notorious reputation, and violations of court orders to stay away from brick-and-mortar casinos. Benward's audacious exploits earned him the label of being "industrious around the country and on Las Vegas Boulevard," according to Commissioner Brian Krolicki.

The frustration of casinos was evident, as they had repeatedly banned individuals only to see them return the next day to continue their cheating endeavors. Persons listed on the exclusion list could face gross misdemeanor charges if caught, with penalties of up to a year in county jail.

Golden Entertainment's Slot Routes Find New Home with Oak Tree Capital Management

In addition to the ban of Benward, the commission also approved the sale and licensing of Oak Tree Capital Management, the parent company of J&J Ventures Gaming, Effingham, Illinois, to take over the distributive gaming assets of Golden Entertainment Inc. This move would make Oak Tree Capital Management the largest slot route operator in the country, overseeing 25,000 slot machines at 3,500 locations across five states.

Distributed gaming involves slot machine routes where workers install, maintain, and operate slot machines at various establishments, including bars, taverns, restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience markets. Golden Entertainment Inc., operators of the PT’s Pubs chain of taverns in Nevada, had announced plans to sell its slot routes in Nevada and Montana to J&J Ventures Gaming.

Blake Sartini II, executive vice president of operations for Golden, mentioned that this transaction was bittersweet, as he had grown the slot route into a multimillion-dollar enterprise over two decades. However, the sale would allow Golden to invest in and enhance its other commercial gaming operations, including properties like the Strat, Arizona Charlie’s, and those in Pahrump and Laughlin.

Changing Hands and Growing Routes

The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved the licensing of two downtown Henderson casino properties to new owner ECL Hospitality Management, LLC, owned by businessmen Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone. The sale of the Emerald Island Casino and Rainbow Club Casino on Water Street in Henderson is set to close in January, with Tim Brooks, the current owner, remaining to oversee the properties.

In summary, the recent developments in Nevada's gaming industry have brought attention to both the enforcement of strict regulations against cheating individuals and the growth of the slot route operator business, emphasizing the ongoing dynamism within the state's gambling landscape.

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