The world’s biggest casino whales

Adnan Khashoggi 

Adnan Khashoggi

Adnan Khashoggi is a gambler that every casino wants walking through their doors. Having spent years as a businessman reportedly involved in the sale of military hardware such as aircraft and weapons, he became a serious high stakes gambler for over 25 years. At one point his fortune was said to exceed $40billion, but eventually, his cheques began to bounce, and casinos came looking for payment. The financial downfall of Khashoggi wasn’t entirely down to the Roulette wheel, although that was his favoured game. He also had one of the most expensive divorces in history, costing him an estimated $850 million. In one 9 week period in 1986, Khashoggi dropped over $15,7 million on the Roulette wheel, and it if it wasn’t for the fact that he spent so much time in and out of court rooms for various disputes and allegations, who knows how much time and money he would have spent playing Roulette.

Akio Kashiwagi

akiokashiwagi250x300Another man who loved Baccarat tables was Akio Kashiwagi. This billionaire real estate investor spent 10 years and $38 million building his own house, and when he was away, he was often sat in the biggest casinos in America and Europe, playing for $200,000 per hand, in sessions which sometimes lasted more than 3 days.

The fact that Kashiwagi collected beautiful diamonds and valuable artefacts, but refused to ever wear any jewellery was slightly unusual, although the manner of his death in 1992 was more so. Despite being a security conscious man with enemies, he was found stabbed to death by a samurai sword, with no sign of anyone having broken into his home. This occurred shortly after he declared that he could not pay a $10million debt he owed, but the manner of his death suggested he was killed by a close friend he let into his home, rather than a hit man or known enemy. Kashiwagi remains one of the biggest Baccarat whales there ever was, and died leaving gambling debts estimated at almost $20 million.

Kerry Packer

kerry-packerKerry Packer, Australian celebrity gambler and one of the richest people in Australia had long been known for apparently placing a bet on anything. There are many stories surrounding this gambler, which are likely a mix of fiction and truth, but one story which best describes the mythical gambling of Packer goes as follows:

Packer was sat in a casino when a rich, Texan came up to the table, talking loudly. Not wishing to be disturbed, Packer asked the man if he could quieten down to which the Texan replied:

“Do you know who I am? I’m worth $100 million!” To which Packer casually replied “Do you want to flip for it?”

Another of the stories linked to Packer includes his winning of $26 million in one Blackjack session and tipping the dealer enough to buy a house. Whatever the real truth, you could be sure that when Packer arrived in Vegas, the market value of a casino company could alter by a few cents based on whether he has a good day at the tables or a bad one, and whales just don’t come any bigger than that. The casino world mourned his passing in 2005, aged 68.

Zhenli Ye Gon

Police seized $207 million in cash Ye Gon’s home

If we’re looking for whales who have lost serious money on the Vegas strip, Zhenli Ye Gon would have to be right up there, having reportedly lost over $125 million between 2004 and 2007. Amid allegations of drug trafficking, police raided Ye Gon‘s Mexico home in 2007 and seized $207 million in cash. There was a case brought against him on USA soil which involved the questionable sources of money he was gambling with at Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp casinos and the fact that they allegedly didn’t flag up his transactions for closer inspection. The case against Ye Gon collapsed, but he may still be extradited to Mexico to fight further allegations there.

Terrance Watanabe

Terrance Watanabe

One man who can top the losses Ye Gon, is businessman Terrance Watanabe who lost a staggering $127 million in one year. Watanabe has since tried to sue the casinos in question, claiming that they kept placing free alcoholic drinks beside him in an attempt to keep him gambling. Further legal disputes erupted over Watanabe‘s refusal to pay $14.7 million of his debt due to what he described as an agreement the casino made with him to give him back a percentage of his losses. Caesars casino were eventually fined $225,000 when the case was settled, with Watanabe only having to pay back $100,000 of the $14.7 million outstanding. It is important to remember that while the casino gave him drinks, Watanabe was the rarest type of whale. He reportedly made awful decision at the Blackjack table every night and contributed greatly to his own financial downfall. He has sought rehabilitation for his gambling problems and has stayed clear of casinos for the past few years.

Chinese whales?

Despite some whales passing away or giving up gambling, it seems that the world remains filled with wealthy businessmen ready to walk into a casino and catch gambling fever. Many now come from the economic growth of the far east, namely China. It is no coincidence that recent years have seen the growth of casinos in Macau, which is fast becoming the eastern Las Vegas.  To demonstrate the size of this gambling world shift, we should point out that the gambling industry in Macau is now estimated at seven times larger than that of Vegas. The average size of minimum bet in Macau is also now reaching close to $300 at non-VIP table, meaning that this part of the world is catering especially to big money players. On November 2014, Reuters reported that a Macau casino whale  was owning junket operators $450m!

Every whale that arrives in a casino for the first time arrives with a dream which often goes unfulfilled. To go on a winning streak that empties the casino vaults and walk out the door having won it all. The only man who has ever really come close to doing that is Archie Karas. He is the man who once spun $50 up to a reported $40 million during 3 years playing at a Las Vegas casino. But even Karas couldn’t defy the house edge and win forever, and in the space of a year, he had lost the entire $40 million back again.

More: How to Turn $50 into $40 Million: The Archie Karas Story

Article by Craig Bradshaw