Nevada adds accused roulette cheat to Black Book

December 21, 2023 8:56 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
December 21, 2023 8:56 PM

A Mississippi man has been added to Nevada’s Black Book, barring him from the state’s casinos after facing allegations of cheating at roulette and trespassing. The Nevada Gaming Commission issued the ruling without Shaun Joseph Benward making an appearance Thursday and stating any defense.

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Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael Somps detailed the case in a 40-minute discussion before the Commission voted unanimously for the blacklist. If he enters any casino in the state, he risks being arrested and charged with an elevated misdemeanor.

“Mr. Benward engages in a scheme to defraud casinos while playing roulette, where he essentially claims to have told the dealer to place his chips on the eventual winning number in an effort to fraudulently claim winnings,” Somps said.

Somps said Benward had an extensive history not only in Nevada, but across the country over several years. He has criminal convictions for violating gaming laws of several states, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Missouri, and Ohio. In addition, Benward has a theft conviction in Indiana.

“Those convictions are evidence of Mr. Benward’s notorious and unsavory reputation and importantly, all of those convictions stem from Mr. Benward’s activities where it was alleged he was engaged or attempted to engage in various versions of this roulette scheme,” Somps said.

Benward was investigated in 2017 in southern Nevada casinos where he was suspected of trying to perpetrate the roulette scheme, but it didn’t lead to charges, Somps said. He was arrested in Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Connecticut casinos and an arrest warrant was issued in Rhode Island.

“The Board investigated Mr. Benward for executing his roulette scheme at numerous Las Vegas casinos in July and August of 2020 that led to his ultimate arrest of commission of a fraudulent act at a gaming establishment and conspiracy to cheat at gambling,” Somps said.

Benward pleaded guilty in 2022 to theft and that case was dismissed with the condition he stayed out of trouble, Somps said.

Benward was the subject of a Gaming Control Board intelligence bulletin for his alleged fraudulent activities in June at Lake Tahoe.

His name is on exclusion lists in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, and Missouri.

Commissioner Brian Krolicki called Benward “very industrious around the country and on Las Vegas Boulevard.” He asked why the case was triggered by Nevada now.

Somps said it came after the Control Board focused on Benward in 2020.

Commission Chair Jennifer Togliatti asked if any subject had ever been trespassed from 17 casinos in Nevada. It’s difficult to prosecute someone for trespassing on the Strip when police are dealing with other activities, she said.

“This is an incredible deterrent for the ability to arrest someone and prosecute them for something more than a misdemeanor trespass that would take an act of Congress and our justice system for it to occur for 17 casinos that told him not to come back,” Togliatti said. “You have the frustration of the licensees when they can’t manage keeping these people off property. They trespass and leave and come back the next day with no redress. Not like you would have with a list of excluded persons, a blacklist.”

The offense for a violation is up to one year in county jail.

“Seventeen trespasses and a record around the country seem pretty impressive,” Krolicki said in backing the ban.

Benward can seek judicial review of the blacklist if he chooses.