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Nomination for Nevada's Black Book Will Be Pulled

22 August 2001

by Jeff Simpson

LAS VEGAS — State gaming regulators are expected to vote Thursday to at least temporarily withdraw their nomination of a felon and former Las Vegas strip club owner to the state's list of excluded persons, popularly known as the Black Book.

The three members of the state Gaming Control Board agreed to withdraw their unanimous September nomination of Sam Cecola, the former owner of Club Paradise on Paradise Road, to the Black Book.

Control Board members decided to reverse their earlier vote out of fairness to Cecola, control board member Bobby Siller said Tuesday.

"We felt perhaps there were some things we need to do to strengthen our case," Siller said, without citing specific examples. "There are some things in the original complaint we need to investigate further.

"As far as I'm concerned we're still interested in him. I personally think the evidence will show he deserves to be in the Black Book."

The Nevada Gaming Commission is slated to consider the withdrawal request at its Thursday meeting in Carson City.

Cecola, 55, was convicted in 1997 on federal tax fraud charges for skimming more than $2 million from Illinois adult bookstores.

Gaming Control Board special agent James Taylor said that when the board voted to nominate Cecola the move was based on his felony conviction, as well as for an organized crime connection and his ties to Nevada.

"He has a notorious and unsavory reputation," Taylor explained, citing a commonly used reason for adding individuals to the black book.

Taylor cited Cecola's inclusion in a 1997 organized crime report prepared by the Chicago Crime Commission, which named him as an associate of the "Chicago Family."

Also important, Taylor said, were Cecola's past Nevada gambling ties. The special agent said Cecola had lines of credit or front money accounts at several Las Vegas casinos. He declined to reveal the names of the casinos involved, and also refused to discuss the size of the credit lines or Cecola's gambling history.

Cecola owned Club Paradise until March 1998, when he transferred ownership to his wife, Geralyn Cecola, to allow the club to maintain a liquor license after his conviction.

In an agreement with Clark County officials, Cecola transferred ownership of the strip club to his wife, agreed never to set foot in Club Paradise and to be permanently barred from holding a liquor or gaming license in the county.

Las Vegas Metro police officials presented county commissioners with transcripts of taped phone calls between the imprisoned Cecola and his wife, which they believed showed he was continuing to run the club from prison.

"We have suspected and confirmed that Sam Cecola has been continuing to operate Club Paradise with Geralyn's knowledge," Las Vegas police Detective Andy Hafen said at the time.

The commissioners nonetheless voted to grant Cecola's wife a liquor license in February 1999.

There are 36 people listed in the Black Book, with 14 names added since January 1997. All are prohibited from entering Nevada casinos.

They are not forbidden from entering airports, bars, convenience stores, supermarkets and many other businesses because those settings routinely have slots and are a key aspect of daily life.

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