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IS THIS A CASINO COVERT OPERATION????

 
 
Sglass
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 04:10 pm

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 8) -- Terrance Watanabe sometimes got so high on painkillers and alcohol in Las Vegas that he walked into doors and passed out at the gaming tables.

The Omaha philanthropist consumed more than two bottles of expensive vodka daily and gambled for days at a time without sleeping. In a single year, he lost $127 million at two casinos owned by Harrah's Entertainment. Nearly $1 billion in wagers passed through his hands.

This embarrassing portrait of excess and dissipation comes from legal documents filed by Watanabe's own attorneys, who are defending him against criminal charges that he still owes Harrah's nearly $15 million from his gambling spree.

Watanabe's lawyers cast the once wealthy businessman as the victim of heartless executives who enticed him to their casinos with offers of lavish rewards, then plied him with massive quantities of alcohol and drugs to keep him under control as they milked him of his fortune.

Jae C. Hong, AP
Terrance Watanabe, who gambled away $127 million in a year, faces criminal charges over $15 million of outstanding debt. But Watanabe says he is only partially responsible for the debt, alleging that the casino company plied him with liquor and drugs.




From Harrah's perspective, Watanabe is a deadbeat gambler who faces four felonies and is telling his story publicly in a desperate attempt to avoid jail.

A civil lawsuit and a complaint to the Nevada Gaming Control Board filed last month by Watanabe's lawyers allege that Harrah's kept him a virtual "captive" at the Caesars and Rio casinos in 2007 and supplied him with the prescription painkiller Lortab without a doctor's diagnosis or supervision.

"They preyed on a vulnerable person who had a gambling and alcohol addiction," said Pierce O'Donnell, one of his attorneys. "Terry Watanabe takes responsibility for what he did, and Harrah's needs to take responsibility for what they did."

Watanabe, 52, is the former head of the Oriental Trading Co., a direct marketing firm that sells novelties and party items. In Omaha, he is known for donating money to AIDS patients, military families and the police department. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He declined through his attorneys to be interviewed.

Watanabe sold his interest in the family company in 2000 and by 2006 was gambling heavily in Las Vegas. In the parlance of the Strip, he was a "whale," a high-roller whose huge losses can be a casino's biggest source of revenue. Casinos vie with each other to entice whales to their tables, offering opulent rooms, private jets, gourmet meals, exclusive show tickets and all manner of other inducements.

Watanabe was one of the biggest whales to come along.

For a time he played at the Wynn casino, where he ran up losses of $26 million by June 2007. Owner Steve Wynn personally cut him off from further play, citing his apparent gambling and alcohol addictions, according to the complaint to the gaming board. A spokeswoman for Wynn said the casino had no comment.

Watanabe soon took up residence at Harrah's properties, first the Rio and then Caesars, under an agreement that offered him 20 separate incentives, including a free luxury suite, an airfare allowance, discounts on his losses, private gaming areas, and deferred marker payments of at least 60 days, the complaint says.

The dispute over how much Watanabe owes Harrah's centers on that agreement, which was recorded in a series of e-mails between Watanabe's assistant and a Harrah's executive, his attorneys say.

On its Web site, Harrah's calls itself a leader in responsible gaming and says it trains its employees to recognize problem gamblers.

"Our company's long-standing and continuing commitment to responsible gaming is something we take great pride in," the Web site says. "Harrah's position on this issue is clear: We want everyone who gambles at our casinos to be there for the right reasons: to simply have fun."

But in Watanabe's case, his attorneys say, the casino staff played a different role.

The complaint alleges that Harrah's assigned employees to watch over Watanabe and ensure that he continued gambling at its properties.

During a six-month period in 2007, employees continually plied him with drinks, ignoring several requests from an acquaintance to water down his vodka, the complaint says. Photos of Watanabe were posted in staff areas so employees would know he should not be denied anything he wanted, his lawyers allege. At the height of his binge, witnesses say he consumed two to three bottles a day of his favorite brand, Jewel of Russia, according to court documents.

If Watanabe was absent from the casino floor for a time, his handlers would call or visit his hotel room and steer him back to the casino floor, the complaint alleges.

Staff members who objected to the way the casino was treating Watanabe were reassigned or dismissed, according to the complaint.

His attorneys say that Harrah's carefully managed a daily routine for Watanabe that included alcohol and drugs, inadequate sleep and pressure to continue gambling. As his intoxication grew worse, his losses increased.

His condition began deteriorating markedly in September 2007 after he slipped on the marble floor in his suite and injured his back. He asked for aspirin or Tylenol, his attorneys say.

Instead of calling a doctor, casino employees began giving him Lortab, a prescription narcotic that should not be mixed with alcohol, the complaint says. Casino staff continually supplied him with the drug, it says, on one occasion delivering the pills to his room in a candy box.

Witnesses say Watanabe became so intoxicated that he slurred his speech, walked into obstacles and at times passed out while playing, according to the complaint. "Rather than taking him to his room, a staff member would wake him up to continue gambling or to sign a marker," O'Donnell said in the complaint.

There is no indication from the documents that close friends or family members spent time with Watanabe in Las Vegas until he had lost much of his fortune.

Watanabe's spree came to an end in December 2007 after his sister visited and persuaded him to leave Las Vegas.

By that time, he had given Harrah's $112 million. But he balked at paying $14.75 million more in markers, contending that the debt was offset by promised discounts and other incentives that Harrah's never delivered.

After Watanabe hired an attorney to help him negotiate, Harrah's submitted the markers to his bank for payment. When the markers were returned because of insufficient funds, Harrah's asked the district attorney to prosecute the man who had been their best customer.

In February, Watanabe turned himself in to face four felony counts of theft and fraud.

Under a unique Nevada law, Harrah's turned over the markers to Clark County District Attorney David Roger for criminal prosecution.

The company is seeking the money despite the $112 million it has already taken from Watanabe -- a sum so large it constituted almost 6 percent of casino revenues for the entire Harrah's chain in 2007, the complaint says.

The prosecutor's Bad Check Unit alleges that the markers Watanabe signed are the equivalent of checks that must be paid on demand. Watanabe's lawyers contend that the markers represent loans, not checks, and therefore should not be subject to the bad check law.

The Bad Check Unit has handled cases involving the markers of several prominent gamblers, including the recent $900,000 debt of former NBA star Antoine Walker. But the $14.75 million at issue in the Watanabe case is the largest sum the unit has sought to recover.

Under the law, the district attorney's office will receive a 10 percent commission on any amount it collects from Watanabe. O'Donnell, a prominent Los Angeles trial lawyer, questions whether such an arrangement is constitutional.

"The statutory scheme in Nevada creates an unholy alliance between private gambling companies and the public prosecutor," he said in an interview. "There is no other industry and no other state where this happens. To give a bounty to the district attorney for collecting private debts is extraordinary."

Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski, who supervises the Bad Check Unit, did not return telephone calls from Sphere.

Jan Jones, Harrah's senior vice president for communications and government relations, issued a brief statement saying the company has no intention of asking the district attorney to drop the case.

Jones said Watanabe's lawsuit and his complaint to the gaming board contain "false statements" but did not specify what she considers untrue. Jones and other Harrah's representatives declined to answer any questions about the case.

"We will not get into a public debate with a criminal defendant who is trying to avoid imprisonment," Jones said in her statement. "He is the one on trial; he's the one who needs to explain his actions."

Watanabe's civil lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages it is seeking. In the complaint to the gaming board, O'Donnell calls for an investigation of Harrah's and the possible suspension of the two casinos' licenses.

"Mr. Watanabe is the victim of a ruthless corporation that deserves the harshest sanctions for its unlawful conduct," he wrote. "Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming that Caesars reprehensibly behaved like a predator stalking, trapping and consuming its prey."
Filed under: Nation, Top Stories
 
Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 04:13 pm
My heartfelt sympathy to this man. It is obvious that he has been manipulated and jacked up not only his monetary losses, but coerced into alcohol and drug use to insure they had control over his bank roll.

I believe the casino is liable.
Seed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 04:19 pm
@Sglass,
What about self control? Just asking.
Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 04:30 pm
@Seed,
I betcha the operators of casinos have psychological profiles on their high rollers, and that they move in on vulnerable players, that have self esteem issues, or perhaps the high roller has psychological issues and using whatever mood enhancers available.

Compulsive gambling is one of the OCD disorders. 12step programs are loaded with these guys.
?

Seed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 04:38 pm
@Sglass,
I can completely see where you are coming from. I understand that if you are involved in an industry that would let you sign your house away to them (not saying that they still do it) that they would not be against having such profiles on people.

But I am sure the man knew he strong points and his weak points. I think the better question to this would be: At what point would you say he became uncountable for his actions? Even the fact that he was drugged up on booze and pills should still be taken into account because he is the one who took them.
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 04:49 pm
From the hilarious movie, "Lost in America"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
David Howard: As the boldest experiment in advertising history, you give us our money back.
Desert Inn Casino Manager: I beg your pardon?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

now paraphrasing

Yeah! I can see it now! Huge billboards in the desert, on route to the hotel "Desert Inn, the Casino with a heart.....Desert Inn, the Casino with a heart.....



If the casino had people hired to shadow the man, why did he (or his friends) hire someone to keep out of trouble?

0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  2  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 05:06 pm
Quote:
Under the law, the district attorney's office will receive a 10 percent commission on any amount it collects from Watanabe.


The neverending fight for truth, justice and the American way.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 05:06 pm
@Seed,
Quote:
But I am sure the man knew he strong points and his weak points. I think the better question to this would be: At what point would you say he became uncountable for his actions?


A gambling addiction is every bit as strong as, and falls into the same category as, any other addiction. If a known alcoholic keeps hanging onto the edge of your bar, you -- as the proprietor of said bar -- not only may shut him off but in most states are required by law to stop serving him drinks. Harrah's is guilty, at least, of not barring Watanabe from its tables. Wynn apparently did the right thing in 86-ing him and refusing him any more credit.

This isn't about self-control except in a very limited sense. A compulsive gambler is out of control. That's a given.
Seed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 07:20 pm
@Merry Andrew,
I am not trying to split hairs. And I apologize in advance if that is how it sounds. But you speak of addiction, and I agree that gambling is an addiction and it is not the use of simple will that keeps someone from doing there addiction. I will agree as well that Harrah's is partly to blame. But when a drug addict is caught, if the dealer who sold it was caught as well, do they both not get punished? And yes I do realize that drugs are illegal. But all I am saying is that both parties are held accountable.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 08:18 pm
@Sglass,
Quote:
Under a unique Nevada law, Harrah's turned over the markers to Clark County District Attorney David Roger for criminal prosecution.

Under the law, the district attorney's office will receive a 10 percent commission on any amount it collects from Watanabe.


Absolute sleazeballs. These "lawyers" make the sleaziest of lawyers look like saints. And these are public servant "lawyers".

A commission on a criminal prosecution, jesus h ******* christ, no conflict of interest there.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 08:32 pm
@JTT,
Thats why the gaming industry all over the US is a bunch of leeches who use all sorts of profiling and have questionable relationships with county law enforcement.

The guy is a train wreck also. Hes like an alcoholic when he gets near tables.
I love the commensal "pack" mentality that prevails among the various houses. They all want to pick the bones of the whales.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 03:50 am
@Seed,
Seed wrote:
What about self control? Just asking.


I agree. If he were to get ridiculously lucky and win he'd not be forgiving the casino debt.

But the casinos should be regulated better than that. Responsible gaming is good for them too. They can't destroy the communities they operate in, it's their goose that lays the golden egg and the more they are compelled to do to reduce the damage that gambling addicts cause to themselves and their families the more acceptable their place will be in society.

I favor legal gambling but with strong regulation to prevent the abuses, cheating and underworld that are so common in casinos around the world (American casinos operate like angels compared to most other places). At the very least I'd like to see casinos forbidden from extending any form of credit to their customers. The loan sharking that lives off of gambling is an ugly ugly thing.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 07:59 am
@Sglass,
Sglass wrote:
Compulsive gambling is one of the OCD disorders. 12step programs are loaded with these guys.


might be a good if a responsible person at a 12-step program referred people to appropriate treatment programs

Some addicts can be treated in their illness - but they sometimes need help getting into effective treatment.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 05:32 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
I agree. If he were to get ridiculously lucky and win he'd not be forgiving the casino debt.


Self control, what a crock! The odds are in the casino's favor to start. When they put the odds so overwhelmingly in their favor as they did, they ought to be prosecuted.

Quote:
On its Web site, Harrah's calls itself a leader in responsible gaming and says it trains its employees to recognize problem gamblers.


That's ludicrous on its face.


Quote:
At the height of his binge, witnesses say he consumed two to three bottles a day of his favorite brand, Jewel of Russia, according to court documents.

If Watanabe was absent from the casino floor for a time, his handlers would call or visit his hotel room and steer him back to the casino floor, the complaint alleges.

Staff members who objected to the way the casino was treating Watanabe were reassigned or dismissed, according to the complaint.



0 Replies
 
 

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