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Pill Me, Mr. Host

Oh, those wacky millionaires.

Pill Me, Mr. Host

Oh, those wacky millionaires.

Normally, when a millionaire loses a bunch of money in a casino, he just gets more. I even stood in line at a redemption booth once when a rich guy was cashing out a few yards away in a VIP area, and the guy seemed proud of losing.

He stands there and cashes in about 20 grand in chips, and, looking at my face—I had the same expression you get at the dentist after the Novocain sets in—he says, “Don’t worry, I lost a lot more.”

Here, I was happy I still had $80 worth of chips to cash in—hey, it’s almost a hundred!—and Diamond Jim seems to be flaunting the fact that he had gambled more in a few hours than I will pay for my house over 30 years.

He didn’t walk away with cash, though. All that dough was applied to his credit account. These guys can gamble on six-figure and seven-figure credit lines, which are what keep the high-roller world spinning.

Of course, sometimes those credit lines get them in trouble. Take the case of Terry Watanabe.

Mr. Watanabe is a millionaire from Omaha, Nebraska. He made his millions in his family import business. He lost a lot of it at Caesars Palace and the Rio in Las Vegas.

In 2007, it says here, Terry lost around $112 million at those two casinos, and paid all of it back, except $14.7 million. For that debt, prosecutors say he had a simple solution—he wrote them a check. It bounced. So the casinos are coming after him in criminal court.

Man. A $14.7 million bounced check. I hate when that happens.

However, dear readers, that, alone, is not why Terry’s story has made it into my magnificent monthly marathon of mirth. His defense scheme is murky. At most. (OK, I’ll stop.)

Attorneys for Mr. Watanabe (the name is Cherokee for “Man Of Many Flaming Dollars”) say they have witnesses lined up who will testify that the casinos plied him with alcohol and prescription drugs that made him goofy. He was so hopped up on booze and pills, they say, he didn’t know what he was doing.

He was in a “constant state of intoxication,” the defense team says.

It is the latest court case that involves a player blaming a casino for his own behavior. Granted, it’s usually someone suing a casino for not recognizing that he’s drunk, or a crazed addict, or that he’s losing, by God, so the casino shouldn’t take his money. But it’s the same concept—just with the big bounced check added in for entertainment.

You know, I’ve gambled in casinos for more than two decades, and I’ve never been offered a Quaalude. Not once. I’ve never seen a casino host handing out Vicodin or Oxy. “Here, Mr. Smythe-Smythe. Wash that ‘lude down with this fine Scotch before your next hand. It’s our lucky Scotch!”

I’m having trouble believing that this actually happened.

I can believe that the guy imbibed like the town drunk while he played, but I don’t believe the drug story—and whatever his state, it was his own responsibility.

Maybe it’s just my frame of reference. In 20 years, I can think of two times when I kept playing when I was too sloshed to be playing—you know, when the conversation with the server becomes like this:

“Another cocktail, Mr. Legato?”


The first time, I was in a poker room with my friends, so someone else was making my bets for me as I sat there on the brink of consciousness. I ended up with about half the money I sat down with, so I apparently did win a couple of hands, even though I was like a mannequin at the poker table.

The other time, I hit a royal flush for $1,000, and started ordering the booze. I ended up stopping at a blackjack table on my way back to my room, and that’s all I remember. The next day, I woke up in my hotel room and realized I had won $500 at the blackjack table, apparently while unconscious.

It’s not something I recommend, especially if it’s millions you are wagering instead of $10 chips.  But even if I had lost, I would not have blamed the casino.

I wonder if I’d feel differently if it was $100 million, and I was playing on credit.

We’ll never know, because even if I could, I wouldn’t play on credit. When my money’s gone, I do the right thing. I slouch back to my hotel room sifting through the lint in my pocket, like some pathetic hobo.

Of course, that’s after I get my drugs from the casino host.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.