You’d think it would be simple to drop millions of dollars at a casino.
But extracting that kind of dough tends to require a delicate dance between casino, player and host: the person charged with luring gamblers to bet big and lose big. It can involve private jets, exotic hotel suites, bottles of Cristal, Cuban cigars and pretty much anything the gambler wants. It’s a perfect environment for squeezing out the massive losses that keep casino chandeliers burning.
Last month, the Daily Mail reported that Hollywood mogul Ron Meyer dropped an estimated $ 100 million partly with the assistance of an Atlantic City casino VP who served as his host. Once Meyer exhausted his AC credit — allegedly, between $ 5 million and $ 7 million per trip — the VP helicoptered him to Connecticut where he was set up to borrow an additional $ 3 to $ 5 million for casino play there.
Indeed, Meyer — who recently left his position as the Vice Chairman of NBC Universal after admitting to an affair with actress Charlotte Kirke — seems most interested in just getting access to the money.
“Most whales expect the world. If they lose they want more; if they win, they still want a lot,” one host who has handled Meyer told The Post. “Ron is my nicest whale. He would bet $ 30,000 or $ 40,000 on a roll [at the craps table] and eat ham and eggs for breakfast. Win or lose, he was the same guy.”
Meyer’s story has put a spotlight on the world of “whales” — casino speak for the highest-stakes gamblers — and just how far hosts will go to keep them happy.
A host at one major Las Vegas casino talked about satisfying a whale by wrangling a French bulldog with a special eye color, and tracking down a hard-to-get handbag for another’s wife.
Hosts confirm they are willing to go all out to pursue and keep a client. Independent host Steve Cyr, subject of “Whale Hunt in the Desert” (Huntington Press), admitted he once dumpster-dived to snag a competing casino’s mailing list of high rollers.
“Back in the 1990s, I wanted a particular customer. I gave him $ 100,000 in promotional chips,” host,” Cyr told The Post. “That was a good investment. Over the years, at just one casino with me, he lost 11 million.”
It’s a system designed to lure the rich and risk-loving into situations where they are mathematically disposed to lose. “There was one host who paid for Colombian hookers and drugs with his players’ comp dollars,” said a fellow host, referring to credits to be used in the casino. “The six-figure players got prostitutes and cocaine. That worked great until the police found out.”
For some gamblers, lines of credit are everything. “When you have a gambling problem and somebody is giving you millions of dollars in credit, you will go anywhere for it,” a high-roller told The Post. “The host’s job is to take every dollar from you. After they do, they don’t want to know you. They move to the next person. They’re not your friends.”
Of course, big casino-runs don’t last forever. It’s alleged that hosts looked the other way as Miami developer Peter Wei “blew tens of millions of dollars in a casino” before he committed suicide last October, according to an inside source. “There should have been red flares,” said another insider. “They should have stopped this guy.”
Omaha entrepreneur Terrance Watanabe put other losers to shame by dropping $ 189 million in 2007 at Caesars Palace and Rio casinos in Vegas. After he was left owing $ 14.7 million — and failed to pay — the Clark County District Attorney’s Office charged him criminally.
According to Watanabe’s lawyer Pierce O’Donnell: “The casino plied him with Jewel of Russia Ultra vodka and kept giving him pain pills because he hurt himself in the shower. So he was doubly addicted. In one three-and-a-half-hour period at a slot machine, he lost $ 10 million.”
Criminal charges were dismissed but Watanabe paid $ 500,000 in administrative fees to the DA’s office.
“He had the ultimate suite, unlimited credit and escort services provided by the casino. There were private jets and limousines, and he was in a stupor,” said O’Donnell. “Terry was in a fog of gambling.