Mississippi “magician” nominated to enter Nevada’s infamous “black book”

A 36-year-old Mississippi-based magician and illusionist has been nominated to enter Nevada’s “black book”, which bans people for life from all state casinos. Shaun Joseph Benward was nominated by Michael Somps, Senior Deputy Attorney General in the Gaming Division of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, to join the infamous List of Excluded Persons.

In a presentation to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Somps said that Benward has cheated various casinos across the country, along with an accomplice. As per reports, Benward’s strategy was to distract roulette dealers and win their confidence through conversation, and then place his bet late in a game.

When the ball would land, Benward tried convincing the dealers that they mistakenly placed his chips on the wrong number. This story would be backed up by his accomplice, and flustered dealers would allow the bet to be played.

Benward used this tactic over and over, in various states. According to reports, many companies have alleged that Benward cheated them out of thousands of dollars. He was also arrested and convicted in multiple states but was freed and released from incarceration.

Las Vegas Review Journal cited Somps, who said that Benward has been placed on exclusion lists in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, and Missouri. He also was convicted or arrested by authorities in New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana Rhode Island, and Nevada.

He further noted that Benward was kicked out of nine Las Vegas casinos in July and August 2020. Earlier this year, he was asked to leave a casino in Lake Tahoe and has been removed from a total of 17 Nevada casinos over the years.

Somps, in his presentation, further explained that it would only take one instance of being convicted of crimes involving a violation of gaming laws or crimes involving moral turpitude, or having a notorious or unsavory reputation, or one instance in which he violated a court order to stay out of casinos, but he satisfied all four criteria for possible exclusion.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick told Somps: “Certainly the enforcement division has had quite a bit of contact with this gentleman and law enforcement in general has had extensive contact with this gentleman and your presentation lays that all out.” 

It would only take one criterion to make him suitable for nomination. He’s actually exceeded that fourfold and becomes an excellent candidate for somebody who should not be involved or allowed to enter into Nevada’s gaming establishments that have anything beyond slot machines,” Hendrick added, as per Review-Journal.

It is, however, not yet clear when the Nevada Gaming Commission will consider voting Benward into its black book. Benward, who is a native of Ocean Springs, has the right to a hearing before the vote.