Biggest loser: whale drops $127 million in Vegas

Harrah'sI'm sure Terrance Watanabe expected his luck to turn around soon with every step he took toward losing nearly $127 million at the tables in Las Vegas.

It never happened, and now the former millionaire is in a desperate legal battle with Harrah's over the $14.7 million the casino company claims it advanced Watanabe, money he failed to repay. His counterclaim states that the casino kept him liquored up and supplied with pain meds to keep him in the game.

He is by no means the only mega-loser in the gambling world, though. Other big-time marks include:

Zhenli Ye Gon -- When this reputed kingpin of the Mexican meth business was busted in October, police found $205 million stashed in his mansion in Mexico City. Vegas may have wept over a lost opportunity, since Ye Gon had already lost more than $120 million gambling, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The New York Daily News reported that the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino loved Ye Gon so much it gave him a Rolls Royce to thank him for his lack of understanding of the house advantage.

Kerry Packer -- This Australian Australia's answer to Rudolf Rupert Murdoch was once labeled "The King of Whales," whales being a term describing a high roller. His wins and losses were a couple of orders of magnitude larger than mere mortals. Reportedly he once bet £15 million (almost $25 million) on four roulette tables and lost each time. He did, however, die with an estate worth over $5 billion, so I guess he could afford his losses.

Akio Kashiwagi
-- This Tokyo real estate investor loved baccarat; high stakes baccarat. In 1990, he dropped $10 million in the Atlantic City casino owned by Donald Trump. Perhaps his biggest gambling loss came in 1992, though, when he was mortally stabbed up to 150 times, rumored as revenge by the Yakuza over a business deal that didn't go the way the mob had envisioned.

Fouad al-Zayat -- AKA "The Fat Man," recently confessed in a London court to losing £23 million ($37.5 million) in the gaming club Aspinall's over the previous 12 years. The Syrian, who does business in Cyprus, recently lost a lawsuit and was ordered to pay the club £2 million to cover his outstanding debts. He vowed to never wager in London again.

I can't help but notice the similarity here with Watanabe's case -- casinos advancing these whales huge sums of money. Then filing lawsuits to reclaim the advance. I'd have bet that they would have realized that a man foolish enough to lose a fortune wouldn't stop just because he was broke, not as long as he still had house credit.
Read Full Story

From Our Partners