A Clark County District Court judge on Friday ordered Harrah's Entertainment to turn over documents related to gaming activities of a high-roller accused of bouncing checks totaling $14.75 million at two of the company's casinos.
Omaha, Neb., businessman Terrance Watanabe is facing up to 28 years in prison on four felony counts of theft for writing bad checks in 2007.
Watanabe lost nearly $127 million in 2007 at Caesars Palace and the Rio. He paid $112 million of the debt but is disputing the rest, claiming Harrah's reneged on promises to return some of his losses. He also argues that he was too intoxicated to be held accountable for his losses. He claims Harrah's supplied him with drugs and alcohol to lower his capacity to act competently.
Harrah's, which is not a party to the state's case against Watanabe, sought to quash a defense subpoena for the documents. The company said complying would put an unreasonable and oppressive burden on the company.
Judge Jennifer Togliatti limited the documents that need to be turned over to the defense to those from Jan. 1, 2007, to Jan. 31, 2008.
The defense had asked for documents about Watanabe's activities from Jan. 1, 2006, to April 28, 2009.
The documents ordered turned over include logs on Watanabe's gaming activities and casino markers, pre-shift briefing notes on Watanabe, his history of casino credit at Harrah's Entertainment, records of any prescription and nonprescription drugs provided by casino employees, and records of alcoholic beverages served to Watanabe.
Togliatti also agreed to review in private surveillance video, audio recordings and photographs that the defense says might show Watanabe was too incapacitated to make sound judgments.
She also requested to view in private documents submitted by Harrah's to the Nevada Gaming Control Board regarding Watanabe's activities during 2007.
Gaming regulators have opened an investigation into whether Harrah's violated any gaming laws in its handling and treatment of Watanabe.
Harrah's attorney Dominic Gentile said after the hearing that the company agreed all along that Watanabe is entitled to materials relevant to his defense.
"But what the judge said today is that a criminal defendant like Mr. Watanabe doesn't get to go on a fishing expedition," Gentile said. "We're very pleased with this ruling."
Watanabe's trial is scheduled to begin July 12.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893.