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The Biggest Loser

1:08 PM, Dec 5, 2009 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Today's Wall Street Journal has an amazing and -- if you enjoy the occasional gaming experience -- thoroughly engrossing feature story on Terrance Watanabe, who this year ran up a gambling debt of $127 million -- supposedly the biggest losing streak in Vegas history. Harrah's casino claims Mr. Watanabe still owes it $14.7 million -- the man has already shelled out almost $112 million. Mr. Watanabe, on the other hand, insists he was plied with not only alcohol but also pain medications.

As for the perks? Writes Alexandra Berzon, "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." According to Harrah's senior vice president for communications and government relations Jan Jones, "When requests were appropriate we met them." (Hmm, I wonder what sort of requests I'd come up with.)

Who knows? Maybe Mr. Watanabe has a case. But I would be shocked to find out casino execs offered free drinks in order to get a player to make bad gaming decisions! Next thing you know, they won't put windows or clocks in the casino so you won't know what time it is and stay there for the next 36 hours!

Seriously, at the moment I have little sympathy for the defendant. Even one of Watanabe's handlers, Kristian Kunder, admitted his boss "was considered a 'house' player because slots and roulette are house games--they have terrible odds for the player.... And the way he played blackjack, he made it a house game. He made such bad decisions on the blackjack table."

I don't care how drunk or drugged you are -- if you split Kings or take insurance or hit on a 14 when the dealer is showing a 6 or you don't split aces, you got what's coming to you. (Mr. Watanabe should even be grateful. Back in the day, there were other ways a casino could handle its problems--and it didn't involve a court of law.)