The Who2 Blog

The Gambler Who Lost $127 Million In One Year

Jeepers, what a story.

Terrence Watanabe blew $127 million in a “year-long gambling binge at the Caesars Palace and Rio casinos in 2007,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

By himself, making terrible bets on blackjack and roulette, he accounted for 5.6% of the Las Vegas gambling revenues for Harrah’s, Inc. that year.

Several employees say Mr. Watanabe would stay at the tables for up to 24 hours, sometimes losing as much as $5 million in a single binge. He was allowed to play three blackjack hands simultaneously with a $50,000 limit for each hand. At one point, the casino raised his credit to $17 million, according to court documents.

Mr. Watanabe’s prodigality became almost as legendary as his gambling. According to court documents, Mr. Watanabe says he regularly handed out to Caesars employees bundles of $100 bills that could total as much as $20,000… he once told a security guard to go to a supermarket and buy every cut of steak, and then proceeded to hand them out to employees.

Watanabe is from Omaha and made his fortune through Oriental Trading Company, selling trinkets — plastic spider rings and the like. He sold the company in 2000 and then found himself at loose ends, according to the Journal, eventually drifting into big-time gambling.

The casino operator offered him lucrative terms to gamble at its casinos… Mr. Ning specified such offers as tickets to the Rolling Stones, $12,500 a month for airfare and $500,000 in credit at the gift stores. Harrah’s also offered 15% cash back on table losses greater than $500,000, special high-limit games and other incentives.

Mr. Watanabe resided for free in a three-bedroom suite at Caesars, had access to his favorite bartender, drank a special brand of vodka, Jewel of Russia, and was constantly surrounded by attendants to serve his every need, such as a seven-course meal from the casino’s Bradley Ogden restaurant delivered to him while he was gambling, according to the court filing and employee accounts.

(Could that be the same Caesar’s suite from The Hangover?)

Harrah’s says Watanabe still owes them millions, and the Clark County DA has charged him with four felony counts of fraud. He’s countersuing, claiming that Harrah’s plied him with liquor and painkillers that kept him gambling.

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