Skip to content

Harrah’s Debtor Case Dropped

Some gamblers don’t know how to quit when they’re down. That’s the case for Terrance “Terry” Watanabe, who lost $189 million in debts in a single year at Harrah’s. Watanbe had owned the Nebraska-based Oriental Trading Co, and sold it in 2000. Despite this incredible windfall, he couldn’t control his cash at the casino and he had run up debts that he couldn’t pay. In 2007, Harrah’s pressed charges saying that Watanbe owed $14.7 million and had passed bad checks.

Watanbe filed a claim against Harrah’s with Nevada’s Gaming Control Board. According to Watanbe, he was served alcohol and illegal prescription drugs at the casino, and was allowed to continue gambling even when he was visibly intoxicated. According to Nevada law, casinos may not accept wagers from visibly intoxicated patrons. According to Watanbe’s statements, he frequently gambled while mostly asleep and drunk.

The court dismissed the case after Harrah’s and Watanbe agreed to go to binding arbitration. This does not close the case filed by Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, but industry experts do not believe that Harrah’s will see much more than a fine and a warning even if it is found that they acted against regulations.

It looks like one of those cases where everyone’s wrong. If Harrah’s or any of their employees gave a patron prescription drugs, that’s pretty serious wrongdoing. It’s one thing to offer someone a cocktail and hope it will loosen them and their wallets, but handing them a Valium or a Vicodan is a whole different ballgame. That’s a criminal offense. The fact that the DA is letting that go makes me wonder if that really happened. Maybe it was a one-time thing. Maybe Watanbe had a monster hangover and a casino employee offered him something a little stronger to deal with the headache. I’m guessing if it were a regular occurrence, we’d be hearing more about that. Even assuming that the prescription drugs charge is overplayed or inaccurate, though, the pit boss and dealers shouldn’t be allowing people who look like they’re not keeping their heads to be out on the floor. It’s a matter of safety for other patrons, not to mention just bad practice. If the man enjoys his game, he’ll be back when the whiskey wears off, too, and he’ll be glad that his wallet isn’t completely empty when he wakes up in the morning.

On the other hand, personal responsibility plays a role here. If you’ve already racked up a million dollars in casino losses, then it’s time to admit you have a gambling problem. There are plenty of ways to get help. If you don’t get that help, you bear culpability for what happens next, and you shouldn’t be able to blame the casino for your irresponsible behavior.

Posted in Las Vegas.

Tagged with , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.