Casino revenue is heavily dependent on a group of high rollers known as whales. These patrons provide the majority of casino profits and executives strive to keep them contented.
Recent research has uncovered the costliest casino losses in history. Here are four of the biggest and most infamous ones.
Terrance Watanabe of Omaha suffered a devastating 2007 run of bad luck when his losses at Las Vegas casinos totaled $204 million – one of the largest ever experienced by an individual in Sin City history. His losses were among the largest ever experienced by any single individual at that time.
After selling his company, Watanabe became an avid gambler and frequented casinos in Las Vegas. He would stay at the casino for 24 hours at a time, play three $50,000 hands of blackjack simultaneously and lose up to $5 million per day.
Eyewitnesses reported that he was usually drunk when at the casinos. Additionally, witnesses stated he was given painkillers to help him get through his gambling sessions.
He even purchased Rolling Stones tickets and received gift store credit in exchange for gambling. Ultimately, he accumulated a debt of $112 million that he eventually paid back, but refused to settle the remaining amounts, prompting Harrah’s Entertainment Inc to file criminal charges against him.
Maureen O’Connor, the beloved former mayor of San Diego who won over voters with her charismatic leadership style, amassed an immense fortune gambling in casinos nationwide. She lost over one billion dollars playing video poker alone and used funds from a charity foundation founded by her late husband to fund her addiction.
On Thursday, O’Connor, 66, was sentenced to repay the $2 million she stole from her late husband’s charitable foundation and receive treatment for her gambling addiction. Additionally, she agreed to pay both state and federal income taxes on any winnings as well.
OConnor spent years gambling at casinos in San Diego, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, according to court documents. She won more than $1 billion during that time but suffered huge losses, according to her lawyer. These setbacks ultimately drove O’Connor to liquidate her savings, sell real estate holdings and obtain second and third mortgages on her La Jolla home; these funds were then used for paying off casino debts while continuing gambling, prosecutors stated.
Harry Kakavas, the former Australian billionaire, lost $20.5 million at Melbourne’s Crown Casino alone over two years. That amount is only slightly less than Maureen O’Connor’s loss of $1.43 billion.
Like Maureen O’Connor, Kakavas had a problem with gambling. From June 2005 until August 2006 he spent $1.479 billion at Crown Casino playing baccarat alone.
Kakavas took legal action against Crown in an effort to recoup his losses, but was unsuccessful both during trial and on appeal in May last year.
One possible explanation was that Crown was aware of Kakavas’ gambling issue. It was its own community affairs officer Bill Horman who recommended Kakavas leave Crown and seek treatment with psychologists.
He further noted that Crown was aware of Victoria’s Star City ban on problem gamblers, making it illegal for the casino to let Kakavas back into its casino, send him promotional material or allow him to keep any winnings from gambling activities. This was unconscionable, according to Kakavas.
Charles Barkley is a retired NBA star and one of the most beloved sports analysts on television. He currently hosts TNT’s Inside the NBA show.
On Wednesday, Dan Patrick relived his worst betting loss of his career on The Dan Patrick Show: it was a $100,000 bet against Atlanta in the Super Bowl against the Patriots.
The Falcons were a +3 point favorite, yet Barkley chose to wager against the spread. He claims a friend placed the bet for him.
Reports indicate the casino owes him $400,000. He asserts that he will pay off the debt and make amends to the establishment.