"It used to be that they put every coin-cup thief and cheater on there, but now they save it for the organized crime types and the ones who are more sophisticated," said Ric Santoro, senior vice president of corporate security for Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.
Blacklisted gamblers rarely fight their inclusion on the list; rarer still is the one who persuades regulators to remove him.
That happened last year, when 56-year-old Allentown, Pa., businessman Allen G. Perlman - blacklisted in 1978 after being convicted of past-posting, or placing bets late, on a blackjack table - formally requested that his name be stricken.
His lawyer persuaded regulators that the cheating incident was a youthful indiscretion by a man who has since become law-abiding member of society.
Some try to get off the list, but can't.
David Morse, 52, of Cranston, R.I., a former stockbroker who moved to Atlantic City in 1989 to make a living as a professional blackjack player, was banned in 1995 after casinos complained that he was manipulating the cut card during dealer shuffles to gain an advantage.
Never convicted of cheating, he was placed on the list anyway. He said the letter notifying him was mailed to the wrong address and he never got it. When he petitioned to have his name removed, the casino commission refused.
"They put a dent in my livelihood. That was my main staple and it's no longer available," he said, referring to professional gambling. "After studying and applying my practice, when I was just getting toward the good years where I expected to do some actual earning is when they pulled the carpet (out from) under me."
But it doesn't take a conviction to get on the list. Just as casino regulators can deny or revoke licenses of casino workers who have only been accused or suspected of a crime, so can they ban people they consider bad influences - conviction or not.
Edwin Jacobs, Jr., a defense attorney who has represented reputed mobsters blacklisted by New Jersey casinos, calls the list a joke.
"To me, it is symbolic - and nothing else. They want to have a blacklist so they can say they're keeping the desperadoes out of the casinos. But you could go to these 12 places and collect more desperadoes out of them then you could at Southern State Prison.
"There are people with criminal records, people under indictment. You're never going to be able to sanitize them (the casinos). The concept of an exclusion list is next to meaningless when you put it in that perspective," said Jacobs.
Organized crime experts question whether the list has played any role in keeping New Jersey casinos free of mob taint.
For example, a blacklisted mobster who wants to launder money in a casino could do so by sending an underling who's not on the list, said Ronald Goldstock, former head of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force.
He said the list has limited value.
"Primarily, it serves now as a vehicle for letting the public have confidence that the casinos aren't being abused by organized crime figures. When the public or reporters comment on seeing organized crime figures in the casino, it sort of suggests that they have an in there. To the extent that you can keep them out, at least it quiets that," said Goldstock.
But regulators and casino officials believe casinos are safer for it.
"It definitely has prevented us from being victimized," said Santoro, the Trump security official. "It would be a lot less safe for everyone if they were in here."
On the Web:
New Jersey Casino Control Commission: www.state.nj.us/casinos
New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement: www.state.nj.us/lps/ge