Who’s in Nevada’s Black Book? No. 3 – Sandra Kay Vaccaro

The Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Excluded Person List, more commonly known as Nevada’s ‘Black Book’, contains the names of people banned from entering casinos in the state, often in the wake of a conviction for criminal activity conducted within one of its casinos. In the entire history of the Black Book, which dates back to 1960, there has only ever been one female addition, and she is still there to this day. Today we see what Sandra Kay Vaccaro did to receive this dubious accolade.

Cool Shoe Shuffle

Sandra Kay Vaccaro’s first brush with the casino authorities came in 1980 when she was caught attempting to insert a ‘cooler deck’ (a set or prearranged cards) into a blackjack shoe at the MGM Grand. She managed to avoid prosecution but clearly had a taste for defrauding casinos, which she put to use when her husband John, who was part of Los Angeles organized crime, cooked up a plan to rig slot machines by interfering with the machine’s mechanism to pay out jackpots. John and an accomplice would scope out a casino and its security arrangements, finding those with minimal security. Another gang member would then enter and start to play a slot. Other members of the ring including Sandra Kay would then enter and surround the player as he played in order to ‘support’ him, attempting to cut off the view of the security cameras and guards as they did. The team’s “mechanic” would then open the machine just enough to align the reels to register a jackpot. The onlookers would disperse as the winner collected the jackpot.

No Going Back

The Vaccaros’ operation ran for several months until they were finally busted in 1984, but not before they had secured $1.6 million from the exercise, which made it the biggest slot cheating case at the time. Sandra Kay Vaccaro was found guilty alongside her husband, who would die in prison in 2015, and other members of the ring. At her Nevada Gaming Control Board hearing, it was suggested that she was to some extent a victim of guilt by association, but some, including the Deputy Attorney General, felt that should she enter a casino she would be recognized by patrons who would think “something is going down” and would leave. The panel agreed and Vaccaro, despite her relatively minor role in the scam, was placed in the Black Book in 1986, where she remains to this day, the first, and so far only, female entrant in the book.