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Terrance Watanabe – The Most Extravagant Way to Lose $200 Million Dollars

Today, we revisit the life story of one of the most famous gamblers in the history of the Sin City, Terrance Watanabe.

Terrance inherited the Oriental Trading Company from his father, Harry Watanabe. This venture transformed him into a successful businessman with a flair for parties and novelties. Eventually, his lifestyle would lead him to the glitzy casinos of Las Vegas and make him a gambling legend.

Terrance Watanabe net worth once ranked him among Nebraska’s wealthiest, but his passion for gambling would eventually paint his legacy. He would become famous for his extravagant six-figure bets, placing over $200,000 on single hands of blackjack.

His 2007 gambling spree is the stuff of legends, with his total rollover amounting to over $825 million. To put things in perspective, this is more than the GDP of some nations.

Full NameFull Name
Terrance Watanabe
Net WorthNet Worth
$150 million
Source of WealthSource of Wealth
Famous forFamous for
Being the biggest high roller in Las Vegas
1957, Nebraska

As we delve deeper into his profile, we will explore the highs and lows of a man who treated money as just a number. Join us on this journey through the captivating world of Terrence Watanabe, the whale of whales.

Terrance Watanabe Highlights

Terrance Watanabe Highlights
  • He inherited the Oriental Trading Company from his father
  • Made a fortune after selling the company in 2000
  • Lost over $127 million in Las Vegas in 2007
  • His total turnover for that year was $825 million
  • His total gambling losses are greater than $204 million
  • Known as the “whale of whales” in the Las Vegas casino industry

Early Years and Upbringing of Terrance Watanabe

Terrance Watanabe was born in Nebraska in 1957. His father introduced him to the business world at a young age. His father, Harry, a Japanese immigrant, founded the Oriental Trading Company in 1932, specializing in plastic trinkets and party supplies.

Terry and his siblings were immersed in the family business growing up, with Terry’s mother serving as the company secretary.

In accordance with Japanese tradition, Terry was asked by his father if he wanted to take over the family business when he was 15 years old. During these years, he was known to be reserved and shy but with a keen sense of marketing.

Business Success of the Marketing Genious

While Terrance Watanabe’s gambling career start at a later period of his life, his knack for selecting the right products to add to the oriental Trading catalog was instrumental in transforming his father’s modest venture into a booming mail-order empire.

Under his leadership, the company underwent a strategic transformation, shifting its focus from carnivals to becoming a leading supplier of party goods for churches, schools, retailers, and individuals. This pivot proved to be a masterstroke, propelling the company to new heights of success.

By the year 2000, under his leadership, the company was generating a staggering $300 million in annual revenue. This remarkable achievement set the stage for his later ventures and the roller-coaster life that awaited Watanabe in high-stakes gambling.

The same year, he sold his entire stake in the Oriental Trading Company to Brentwood Associates, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm. With this sale, he stepped down as CEO and president, closing a chapter of his life defined by entrepreneurial success and innovation.

However, his journey does not end there. Watanabe embarked on a new path as a philanthropist, dedicating his resources to various charitable endeavors. But despite his philanthropic efforts, his later years would be overshadowed by his infamous gambling exploits on the Las Vegas Strip, where he lost a significant portion of his fortune.

The Legendary Status of Terrance Watanabe in Las Vegas

When we speak about Watanabe's Las Vegas gambling career, none can match his extravagance.

After selling his company, his love for high-stakes gambling would put him into the spotlight. In 2007, his losses were astronomical. Several sources estimate that he lost a staggering $127 million at Caesar's Palace and Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

His total bets that year amounted to a staggering $825 million, showcasing his unparalleled passion for high-stake gambling.

According to witnesses, Watanabe’s gambling habits were not just about the money; they were a spectacle. The ex-CEO was known to gamble for 24 horse traits, playing three $50,000 hands of blackjack simultaneously. All this resulted in him losing around $5 million a day.

In recognition of the high-roller status of Watanabe, Caesars Rewards created a special "Chairman" tier for him, offering extravagant perks like Rolling Stones tickets, substantial monthly allowances for airfare, and significant credit at gift stores.

His total estimated losses are believed to be around $204 million, making him one of the biggest losers in Las Vegas history. Watanabe’s gambling habits were so much out of control that he earned a ban from Wynn Las Vegas.

Unfortunately for him, the controversies didn't end there, as Caesars Entertainment Corporation faced a $225,000 fine by the New Jersey Gaming Commission for allowing Watanabe to gamble while highly intoxicated. It was also stated that Watanabe was using drugs and making inappropriate advances toward employees while gambling.

High Stakes Gambling and Legal Battles

In addition to making headlines, Watanabe’s gambling losses also led to significant legal battles with casinos. This story took a legal turn when he faced criminal charges of fraud after refusing to pay $112 million of his losses to Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. In July 2010, the parties settled, and the civil and criminal cases were dismissed.

Watanabe’s gambling losses were so big that they contributed significantly to the revenue of the casinos he played in.

This resulted in the Nevada Gaming Control Board launching an investigation, which resulted in a $225,000 fine for Caesars Entertainment for allowing Watanabe to gamble under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The ex-CEO claimed that the casinos provided him with free alcohol and prescription drugs to keep him gambling, impairing his judgment. He also accused them of giving him credit, even though he was previously unable to repay his debts. This led to Watanabe suing Caesars Entertainment, asking for $20 million in damages. The case was eventually settled out of court, with the terms remaining confidential.

The legal disputes between the casinos and Watanabe didn’t end there. Caesars Entertainment sued Watanabe for theft and writing a bad check, which led to felony charges.

During this process, it was revealed that the casinos had gone to great lengths to keep Watanabe gambling, including providing him with special vodka imported from Russia and other amenities. In July 2010, a settlement was reached, and all charges were dropped. Watanabe reportedly paid $100,000 of the money he owed and has since sought help for his gambling addiction, staying out of the public eye.

Terrance Watanabe Net Worth and Wealth

During his peak and before his Las Vegas streak, Watanabe was a business mogul with a staggering half a billion net worth. Terrance Watanabe net worth has since taken a significant hit. 2007 was particularly devastating for Watanabe's finances, as he lost an astonishing $127 million at two iconic Las Vegas casinos - Caesars Palace and the Rio.

Watanabe’s total losses in Vegas are around $204 million. According to Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., which owns Caesars Palace and the Rio, Watanabe’s gambling losses amounted to 5.6% of their revenue that year. As per information from 2023, Watanabe’s net worth is around $150 million.

Where Is Terrance Watanabe Today?

The ex-CEO has taken steps to rebuild his life, selling his Omaha mansions for $2,66 million in 2008 and relocating to San Francisco. In 2017, Watanabe was diagnosed with prostate cancer and initiated a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 for the surgery.

Terrance Watanabe's quote

“I’ve accepted my situation and I do not pity myself. But my hope is that you will find it in your heart to forgive me for my past and help me live long enough to help others in the future.”

Terrance Watanabe

In 2022, Foundation Media Partners acquired an exclusive right to produce a book, movie, and documentary about his life. This will be the first time he will publicly discuss his story, so we will finally be able to get a glimpse behind the scenes of what drove him into massive gambling sessions and other endeavors. Terrance Watanabe’s $204 million gambling spree remains the largest recorded loss by an individual in Las Vegas history and possibly in any casino worldwide.


Who Is Terrance Watanabe?

Terrance Watanabe is an American businessman who inherited the Oriental Trading Company. He is most famous for his staggering gambling losses, estimated to be around $204 million.

How Much Did Terrance Watanabe Lose Gambling?

Terrance Watanabe lost approximately $204 million through gambling, with $127 million lost in 2007 alone at Caesars Palace and the Rio in Las Vegas.

What Was Terrance Watanabe’s Peak Net Worth?

Before his Las Vegas streak, Terrance Watanabe's peak net worth was estimated to be around $500 million but was significantly reduced till then based on his gambling activities.

Will There Be a Terrance Watanabe Movie?

Foundation Media Partners has secured exclusive book, film and documentary rights to the life story of Terry Watanabe.

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