If you’ve ever heard the phrase (or, even, your mum shouting at you) “it’s all fun and games, until someone gets hurt”, then the chances are, you know it to be true.
In fact, it’s an almost tailor-made description for some pretty intense gambling horror stories. While “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” sounds all nice and well, in reality, if something bad goes down in Vegas (or at any casino, brick and mortar or online), you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t actually be staying in Vegas.
Here are 3 gambling horror stories where the fun and games ended up hurting people – very badly indeed, right in their front pockets.
Wayne Rooney Sinks Half A Million In Two Hours
Which self-respecting Brit hasn’t heard of Wayne Rooney? Other than his, ahem, other well-known extra-curricular activities off the pitch, you might not know that our Wayne is a pretty keen gambler. So keen, in fact, that in May 2017, he rocked up to a casino in Manchester at around midnight, and by 2am had lost a whopping £500,000.
It was only 2 weeks wages, so a horror story for some and meh for others.
Even more impressively, he managed to lose that money playing only two games – Roulette and Blackjack. We bet wifey Colleen was not very impressed by that. In fact, rumours abound that, just a few months later when the question of a transfer to a Chinese club was raised, Wayne mysteriously never went. We think Colleen might have had something to do with the choice, as she wanted to keep a closer eye on him, nearer to home. Can’t say we blame you there, Colleen.
(On that note – don’t be like Wayne Rooney: if you are from the UK, make sure to set your loss limit and use bonus codes to increase the value of your money)
Harry Kakavas’ £11 million Loss
Possibly the biggest loss of all time (we’re certainly willing to bet as much), Australian Harry Kakavas also holds the title of possibly the biggest casino loser in history. Back in 1998, when he was a famous real estate mogul, Kakavas went to jail for four months for fraud. The charges state that he’d stolen £160,000 from his properties to fund his gambling addiction.
Is there really such a thing as gambling addiction or gambling stupidity in this case
Knowing he had an issue, Kakavas voluntarily excluded himself from his favourite casino, Melbourne’s Crown Casino…but 6 years later, he somehow returned there, after the staff managed to reel him back in – to the tune of an £11 million loss.
It’s a pretty sad story: Kakavas later took the Crown Casino to court, charging that they knew he had a problem with gambling, and used it for their own gain. While the judge sympathised with him, it was ruled that Australian courts don’t return gambling losses to gambling addicts, and wouldn’t be doing so in this case either. Fair enough.
Maureen O’Connor‘s $13 million Loss
Perhaps the strangest entrant on our list, Maureen O’Conner was the former mayor of San Diego– and she had a little bit of a gambling problem.
While she was never accused of using the city’s money to fund her addiction, news outlets at the time were horrified as the details of her casino spending spree were made public: she confessed to stealing $2.1 million from her husband’s – a fast-food mogul – charity fund, and even re-mortgaged her San Diego mansion three times to free up some cash. She also auctioned off valuables, sold a few properties – and took the proceeds to Vegas, where she blew over $1 billion on the Strip.
Although her net losses were “only” $13 million, it was still enough for her to bankrupt the charity. To make a sadder story even worse, her entire legal defence was based around the discovery of a brain tumour, which she believed made her behaviour much more reckless and risk-taking.
Terry Watanabe – $127 Million Loss In One Year
Terry Watanabe is a bit of a casino industry legend, for the sole reason that you see him here on this list.
They even built him his own online casino to keep him happy
He is widely believed to be the biggest loser of anyone, ever, in the history of Las Vegas. You see, back in 2007, he went on a bit of a gambling binge over at the Caesars Palace and Rio casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
In fact, Harrah’s, which own both of those casinos, made 5.6% in revenue off of Watanabe alone in 2007. That’s quite something!
In a long-running court case, it was heard that Watanabe would gamble for 24 hours a day, going for around $50,000 hands of Blackjack at any one time – and would lose up to $5 million a day.
Watanabe argues that the casinos’ staff would regularly give him free drinks and pain medication to keep in enough of a happy, relaxed state so that he would keep on gambling. Whether or not this is the truth, the case was settled out of court, leaving Watanabe broke and needing to pay back his debt to Harrah’s. As a result, in 2017, Watanabe had set up a Go Fund Me account, which is still active today.
Whether you’re on a winning streak, or just in it for fun, remember these gambling horror stories – and make sure every bet counts!