Nebraska high roller Terrance Watanabe (52) will experience tension and anxiety of a different kind this week when he appears in court on four criminal counts arising from his failure to honour 38 casino markers worth $14.75 million written between October 22 and December 11 in 2007. The markers were issued for amounts ranging from $200 000 to $875 000 at two Harrah's Entertainment Inc. properties in Las Vegas.
Watanabe is alleged to have signed the markers at Caesars Palace and the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, and his lawyers will claim that he had intended to pay the markers, and is a man of character admired in his home state for his philanthropy and kindness.
In Nevada state law, casino markers carry the same obligations as bank cheques, and the authorities are additionally permitted to impose 10 percent recovery or collection costs from those who fail to meet their obligations.
Deputy Clark County District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski told media that Watanabe agreed before an arrest warrant was issued to appear before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Bill Jansen this week. Watanabe will get a chance to post $1.5 million cash bail to remain out of jail pending a trial, Zadrowski said. No plea will be taken at his initial appearance.
Legal representatives for Watanabe said he will "absolutely" plead not guilty when his full trial commences. He could face probation or up to 16 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Watanabe is the heir to the fortune of Harry Watanabe, founder of Oriental Trading Co. in Omaha, Nebraska who grew a small gift shop in 1932 to a large import wholesaler and direct marketer of toys, novelties and party supplies. Watanabe jnr sold the company in 2 000, subsequently developing a reputation as a generous benefactor to political campaigns and nonprofit organisations.
The case is one of the largest of its kind in Nevada, and will include a $1 475 050 claim by Clark County, representing a bad cheque processing and prosecution fee and a $50 surcharge.