A recent craps incident at the Bellagio in Las Vegas proves that the infamous Black Book is still being used in Nevada to record the names of banned gamblers. Two craps players were able to take the Bellagio casino for almost $1.5 million while executing their bold craps scam which involved one of the craps dealers at the establishment. A total of four men are believed to have participated in the scam.
The “Hop Bet” Craps Scam
Beginning in 2012, the team of Anthony Grant Granito and James Russell Cooper devised a plan that would literally take the Bellagio casino for millions at the craps table. They were going to enlist the aid of a craps croupier, or dealer, to help them collect fraudulent bets. The dealer who originally assisted them and is believed to have invented the concept is Mark Branco. Another dealer named Jeffrey Martin was also recruited to participate in the scam.
The scam involved making “hop bets” during the frantic play at the craps table. A hop bet is one that is made verbally at almost the same time the player is throwing the dice. The croupier at the table is responsible for announcing the bet and then placing the player’s chips on the right betting box once the dice have fallen.
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Anyone that has ever played craps in a live casino will tell you that the game is fast and furious. A single table can have as many as 8-10 players, all of which are placing bets or shouting instructions to the dealers. Each craps table has several croupiers to accommodate the bets that are being made. Sometimes, a player may not get their chips out to the proper betting spot before the shooter throws the dice. A verbal acknowledgment of the bet is good enough in most casinos as long as the croupier hears it.
As the dice were about to be rolled the craps scammers would time their hop bet just as the dice were thrown. The cheating croupier would then announce the bet as whatever came up on the dice. There was no way for the men to lose the bet in this scenario. The croupier made the bet whatever he wished it to be.
The team of craps scammers tried their trick first at a smaller casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It worked so well that the team decided to keep doing it at other casinos. According to documents associated with the criminal investigation, the scam continued from 2012-2014 until another dealer at the Bellagio became wise to what was happening and tipped off his superiors.
Granito and Cooper Make the Las Vegas Black Book
All of the men involved in the scam were eventually prosecuted. As of 2018, only Branco is still imprisoned. The other either reached plea agreements or are fighting their conviction. While jail time is certainly bad, it is another form of punishment that has made news headlines. In November of 2018, Anthony Grant Granito and James Russell Cooper became the latest additions to the the legendary Black Book of Las Vegas gambling.
For many years there has been rumor of a Black Book that is maintained by the State Gaming Board in Las Vegas. The book contains the names of individuals who have been banned from gaming in any of the state’s casinos. The Black Book is believed to go back as far as the earliest days of Vegas when the Mafia was still in control of many gaming venues. Nevertheless, there has always been speculation about whether such a book actually exists. Many have believed that it is a myth, a story that is told by the gaming commission to discourage illegal activity. This is the first time that he state has been so public about adding names to the book. Not only does this confirm the presence of the book, but Nevada also confirmed that Granito and Cooper were the 33rd and 34th persons to be placed in the book of banned gamblers.
Put that in perspective. In all the years that Las Vegas has been maintaining the book, only 34 people have found their way into it. The gaming board publishes a complete list of people in the Las Vegas Black Book with their pictures. The collection of photos is a veritable who’s who of Mafia bosses, hitmen, and other assorted thugs. The website with the pictures has recently been updated to include the photos of Granito and Cooper.
Why Did the Las Vegas Craps Scammers Get Caught?
The scam was very well-conceived in truth. It is possible that the men in question could have made it work for many years, and perhaps they would have moved on to other casinos in other states. It was a single factor that led to their downfall: greed.
Instead of being happy with what they were illegally winning at the craps table, the men kept pushing for higher profits. They even devised a way to camouflage their success. They would begin a session by losing thousands on purpose before kicking their scam into gear. They hoped that this would make them appear to be lucky gamblers.
Apparently, the end came when one of the scammers was rewarded for a hop bet that involved astronomical odds. Another croupier at a different table observed the action and alerted casino bosses. An investigation was begun into the cheating and all those involved were caught. If they had not gotten greedy, the men might have went on winning for much longer.