Judge orders Harrah’s to turn over Watanabe documents

A Clark County District Court judge 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 has refused to pay 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.

Watanabe’s attorneys say they need the documents to help build a defense against the charges.

Judge Jennifer Togliatii, however, limited the number of documents that need to be turned over to the defense to those between Jan. 1, 2007, and Jan. 31, 2008.

The defense had asked for documents about Watanabe’s activities from Jan. 1, 2006, to April 28, 2009.

The documents Togliatti ordered turned over include activity 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 say 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 treamtment of Watanabe.

Watanabe’s trial is scheduled to begin July 12.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.