Vegas "black book": Ex-con campaigns to have name removed from list

(CBS News) For half-a-century, Nevada gaming officials have maintained a list of people banned from its casinos. It's been dubbed the "black book." No one has ever had their name taken off the list.

But one ex-con is trying to do just that.

In Las Vegas, slot machines beckon everywhere. At poker and blackjack tables, fortunes are won and lost. Roulette wheels spin relentlessly. And a throw of the dice can decide the future. But for Frankie Citro, all of that is in the past. The only place he can throw dice now is at a friendly game of backgammon at a bar a couple of miles off the Vegas strip.

In a place often called Sin City, Citro's sins have been deemed so unforgivable that under state law he is forbidden from entering any of the casinos. His name is in the so-called "Vegas black book."

If you're in the black book, Citro said, "you're dead." "You mean nothing," he said. "They got no sympathy for you."

If your name is in the black book, more formally known as the excluded list, life in Vegas is no life at all. Jerry Markling, of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, explained, "It would be very hard to live in Las Vegas, or in Nevada, to be on the excluded list."

In a town where the economy is powered by casinos, being blacklisted means Citro can't work there, can't play there, he can't even meet friends for dinner there.

Asked why he stays in the city, Citro said, "Because I've never run from anything in my life. And I'm not gonna run from them."

The book was started in 1960 by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to show the state was cracking down on organized crime. There's an old copy at the Las Vegas Mob Museum, along with photos of some of the notorious mobsters, like Sam Giancana and Marshall Caifano, who were among the first names entered into it. Citro's name went in in 1990 after he served a two-year prison sentence for his role in a lone shark and bookmaking operation.

Citro told CBS News' John Blackstone, "I'm not about to try to tell ya that I was a church choir boy. You know, that's not the way it was. I did whatever I had to do to earn a living."

Citro served his time, but 23 years later his name is still in the black book. He said being excluded from Vegas "hurts...deeply."

Surrounded by his record collection, Citro says he's a much different man than he once was. He now considers himself "somewhat of an authority on doo-wop music," and loves to dance. He said, "You know, there used to be a cliche like, 'Tough guys don't dance.' This guy dances."

He also sings, as he did at his own birthday party recently. And now this changed man is campaigning to get his name out of the black book. One of the guests at his party, former Nevada lieutenant governor Lonnie Hammargren says 23 years of clean living should be enough to clear Citro's name. Hammargren said, "There's a lot of unsavory people that shouldn't be in our casinos. I don't think Frank is one of them."

Markling said, "The only way that anybody has gotten off the list -- that I'm aware of -- is through passing away."

Citro is determined to stay alive until he does get off the list. He may just be tough enough to do that. "When I die," Citro said, "if I'm not outta that book, I'm coming back to haunt all these bastards."

Presumably he's referring to the members of the Nevada Gaming Commission, who will hear his appeal at a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing.

For John Blackstone's full report, watch the video in the player above.