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Casino high rollers – famous ‘whales’ throughout history

posted by Chris Valentine

Casinos love a high-rolling player, that’s why these big-bankrolled regulars enjoy all the comps that the local casino can bestow upon them. However, when it comes to the biggest casinos in the world, well, they are hunting for the biggest prey. And in the world of gambling and casinos, that means the semi-mythical whale is the person that the boss wants to see step into their casino. Think of Captain Ahab and his pursuit of the great Moby Dick, and you will have some concept of how the owners of casinos look upon these mighty beasts. But what makes a high-roller a whale? And how about some examples of real-life gambling whales?

First of all, let’s think about a so-called high-rolling player. This will be a man or woman, but let’s face it it’s probably going to be a man, with a whole lot of money sloshing around that he doesn’t know quite what to do with. Depending on the casino in question, a high-roller could be defined as someone with a budget of between $50,000 and a million for a weekend to a Vegas casino. When playing online, the numbers would be significantly lower than that, so you may want to check out a site like Reelbonanza.com to see if you would qualify for online casino rewards. A whale therefore – and there are only a few hundred of these rare creatures roaming the earth – is someone who would be prepared to lose millions at a casino without batting an eye. This, of course, is exactly why they are so prized by the owners of said casinos.

Adnan Khashoggi is a prime example of a giant casino player. A man who made his living as an international arms dealer, it may not be much of a surprise to hear that he craved the action and excitement of the casino gaming floor. At one time in the 1980s his personal fortune was estimated to have peaked at around $4 billion, and that’s when having a billion dollars meant something! Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, into a Muslim family, it is fair to say that Mr Khashoggi did not always adhere strictly to the teachings of the Koran. His career inevitably involved some murky dealings, and he did spend some time in prison in the 1980s. Khashoggi’s casino games of choice were baccarat and blackjack, and such were the size of his bets that when he went on a lengthy winning streak it caused the profits of the Hilton International to suffer a 20% drop in their quarterly takings.

Fouad Al Zayat is a Syrian businessman who made a fortune over the course of his life, and re-directed large portions of it to the coffers of grateful casinos. In 2007 he caused much wailing and rending of clothes in certain London gambling dens when he vowed never to set foot inside a London casino again. This was provoked by the fact that a court ordered him to pay £2 million to a London casino where he had already spent almost £25 million over the past 12 years. ‘The Fat Man’ as he was known in gaming circles, self-excluded from London casinos, which was no doubt good news for the principality of Monaco among others.

If you want to talk about whales, then you cannot ignore the Great White himself: Kerry Packer. The Australian businessman would regularly drop half a million on a hand of blackjack, and had been known to tip waitresses a million dollars. One imagines that Mr Packer receives truly wondrous service no matter where he goes. It is estimated that he won over $30 million in one session at the MGM where he was betting $300K a hand, and one year was believed to have won more than $9 million from the Hilton in Las Vegas, which was his regular haunt for many years. Vegas casinos engaged in constant attempts to win him over to their rooms, which suggests that he was not always able to beat the house on his forays onto the gaming floors.

For most of us, such lavish expenditure is beyond our imaginations. However, that just means that a ten dollar bet for you and I equates to about half a million bucks for some of these whales. When you put it like that, it seems that we are getting much better value for money!

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