The Gambler Who Blew $127 Million

From the WSJ:

LAS VEGAS — During a year-long gambling binge at the Caesars Palace and Rio casinos in 2007, Terrance Watanabe managed to lose nearly $127 million.

The run is believed to be one of the biggest losing streaks by an individual in Las Vegas history. It devoured much of Mr. Watanabe’s personal fortune, he says, which he built up over more than two decades running his family’s party-favor import business in Omaha, Neb. It also benefitted the two casinos’ parent company, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which derived about 5.6% of its Las Vegas gambling revenue from Mr. Watanabe that year.

But it totally wasn’t his fault:

Today, Mr. Watanabe and Harrah’s are fighting over another issue: whether the casino company bears some of the responsibility for his losses.


  1. Hmm, I really should go into the party-favor import business (and hire a guy whose sole job is to keep me as far away from casinos as possible).

  2. I wonder if its the Oriental Trading Co. That is the only big party favor place I know in Omaha.

    Yes casinos may pray upon an addiction, but damn. Do you think if the casino recommended he quit playing he would. No, he would say “it’s my money.”
    I think I’m going to sue Dr. Pepper and Barq’s next time I get a cavity.

  3. This seems pretty similar to fat people suing McDonalds for being fat. Just as in that case I’m torn between my desire to see big business take a hit to their wallet and not wanting to send the message that this kind of overly litigious behavior is alright to millions of idiots.

  4. Actually, from a casual search of teh interwebz, casinos in Europe do seem to be obligated to help protect people from themselves in cases of severe gambling addiction; lawsuits in the US have tended not to be successful, though casinos are obligated to not actively court compulsive gamblers who are trying to stay away. And note that, in the article, Watanabe does in fact specifically allege that the casino did indeed actively encourage him to keep gambling, and that the managers of the casino let him gamble while drunk contrary to casino policy and law.

    Gambling addition is an illness. This is nothing at all like suing a soda company for a cavity or suing McDonald’s for making you fat. This is more like…well, you know how a lot of people are mad at drug companies, health insurance companies, and other members of the medical-industrial complex for profiting off people with illnesses? It’s like that.

    (Mind you: $127 million? Damn.)

    A pathological gambler has failed in his bid to sue Melbourne’s Crown Casino for millions of dollars he lost there.

    Gold Coast property developer Harry Kakavas lost $30 million during the 15 month, $1.5 billion gambling spree in 2005-2006.

    Kakavas sued Crown in the Victorian Supreme Court, arguing the casino preyed on his gambling addictions.

    Justice David Harper ruled on Tuesday that the casino did not prey on Kakavas.

    He said while the casino provided Kakavas with inducements, it was not outside the grounds of what is acceptable.

    Justice Harper ordered Kakavas pay Crown $1 million which he borrowed from the casino during his time gambling there.

  6. Ha! Terry Watanabe strikes again! in 2001-2003 I was a security guard at the “party favor import business” mentioned in the article. I wonder if he had to sell the bad ass samurai armor he had cased up in his office.

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