Long-serving Black Book member lived in the shadows of notoriety By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports May 6, 2020 at 8:00 pm As notorious characters go, Louis Tom Dragna didn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of the hoodlum element. Throughout much of his long life – he died in 2012 at age 92 — he appeared to spend much of his time living up to – or was it down to? – his family’s reputation. His uncle Jack Dragna was the violent boss of the Los Angeles mob from the 1930s until he dropped dead of a heart attack in 1956. Even Louis Tom’s heart was in a lot better shape even if his nickname wasn’t likely to give a tough guy a bad dream. Dragna was known in some circles as “the Reluctant Prince” for his unwillingness to get his hands dirty with the mob’s traditional muscle and mayhem. But he enjoyed a protected status due in part to the fact his father, Tom Dragna, served as consigliere to his Uncle Jack. In a family business, it was an important connection. When other guys his age went to work on the street, he spent a couple of years in college and the armed forces. Although his arrest record reached back to 1946, about the time the Flamingo opened and the new Las Vegas was born, in the ensuing years, Dragna spent more time at Las Vegas gaming tables than robbing them. At one point the family built a handsome place off what is now Sunset Road not far from Eastern Avenue and Wyne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah. But although the Dragna name was linked to hidden casino ownership and illegal bookmaking, especially at Southern California racetracks, the Reluctant Prince would never be known treacherous as his friend Aladena “Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno or climb to the heights of the Los Angeles version of “Scarface Al.” Louis Tom Dragna, photographed in Los Angeles After his uncle died, Louis Tom rose through the ranks. He was made along with Fratianno and, notably, Dominic Brooklier and Sal Piscopo, colorfully known as “Dago Louie.” He also was in the network of the Sica brothers, who dominated much of the illegal bookmaking in Southern California and made a killing booking fights – especially ones they managed to fix by pressuring the manager of boxer Don Jordan. Louis Tom was in on that and paid a price – the largest being that, once again, his family name was in the headlines. That surely made it easier for Nevada gaming regulators in 1959 when they began assembling the state’s first “List of Excluded Persons,” better known these days as the Black Book. Louis Tom Dragna was among the first 11 names included on the List. Some – oddly, not all – of the major underworld influencers in the Las Vegas casino business of that era made the cut. Several of the names were front-page notorious then: Sam Giancana, Marshall “Johnny Marshall” Caifano, “Murray the Camel” Humphreys of Chicago; gambling brain Max Jaben and Nick and Carl Civella of Kansas City; a feisty former boxer named Robert Garcia from Palm Springs, and Mike Coppola of Miami by way of New York. Add to that Sica and John Louis Battaglia, and it made for an ideal portrait of just the type of characters the state wanted to keep out of the casinos. Forget for a moment that it would take another quarter century to actually get such influences out of the business. And keeping them out continues to take a lot of time for Gaming Control Board agents and other members of law enforcement. Louis Tom Dragna, booking photo In many ways, Louis Tom Dragna’s last stand came when he unwisely joined Caifano ongoing high profile in Las Vegas, hitting the tables and calling in comps and markers at several Strip properties. They were trying to attract attention with a plan to fight their inclusion in the book on Constitutional grounds. The hard-headed Caifano, who was known as a ruthless killer, fought until the end and lost. Dragna got the message and retreated to Southern California, where his name came up less and less over the years. He had more scrapes with the law and just his name generated rumors of crime family comebacks and old scores yet to be settled. The Reluctant Prince was content to remain in the shadows. I suspect it was one of his secrets to living a long life. “One in an occasional series profiling a member of Nevada’s List of Excluded Persons, often referred to as “The Black Book.” John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.