We’ve all heard the term ‘whale’ or ‘high-roller’. The characters depicted in movies such as Oceans 11 are those amateur gamblers who are extremely rich and bet in the millions, though rarely did they make their initial fortune at the tables.
With the kind of money they possess, casinos do all they can to offer these guys the full VIP treatment including free rooms, plane rides and of course credit ranging into the millions.
While they may have turned out the lights of a few casinos over the years, these big fish made their fortunes elsewhere, and we take a look at how just a few of them did it.
Noted as one of the biggest high-rollers of the lot, Kerry Packer was a media mogul from Australia.
Via the Packer Empire, his father controlled both the Nine Network and the Australian Consolidated Press which later amalgamated to become PBL – Publishing and Broadcasting Limited.
Kerry Packer was also well known outside of his homeland for starting World Series Cricket and had a net worth of around $6.5billion when he passed on in 2005.
Packer played big and, admittedly, lost big at times too. Frequently seen gambling both in the UK and in Las Vegas, Packer was known to table bets well into the hundreds of thousands on a single hand of blackjack.
While sometimes winning big and even dropping massive tips to waitresses and hotel staff, in 1999 Packer’s luck spectacularly ran out when he lost approximately $27million in three weeks when betting on roulette. His losses are still a record for a single player in British gambling history.
Some whales made their money before they gambled it, while others simply inherited it. In the case of Terrance Watanabe, his money came from his father who bequeathed him the Oriental Trading Company back in 1977 in the United States.
Twenty-three years later, Watanabe sold off all of his shares and resigned his position as president, immediately making him super cash-rich and boy did he not hide the fact that he was prepared to enjoy it – particularly at the casino.
While Kerry Packer’s loss in Britain was indeed huge, the $127million reportedly lost by Watanabe in Las Vegas in 2009 alone really does mark him out as being in a league of his own, though possibly, not one he actually wants to be in!
Kashiwagi has proven to be one of the biggest gamblers in decades. Many will remember KK Ichikawa in the Martin Scorcese film ‘Casino’; a character said to be based on this man. Kashiwagi loved to play baccarat, as the movie explains often betting $100,000 in one hand in either Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Apparently earning an income of a hundred million dollars or so per year to complement his billion dollars in assets, Akio Kashiwagi built his fortune in the property sector in Japan.
Although founder and CEO of multiple companies, Fouad al-Zayat was famously secretive, if that’s not an oxymoron, and came originally from Syria.
A known major gambler in the Mayfair club in London, al-Zayat is reported to have bet £91million and lost more than £23million across a dozen or so years.
Although not short of a few quid, Fouad al-Zayat once dodged a £2million payment to the Mayfair and won his appeal against prosecution, alleging that his credit line was not lawful under the Gaming Act.