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Gaming Guru

Jeff German

Wynn says he was obligated to try to recoup debt

21 May 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Steve Wynn has some advice for Charles Barkley.

Casino mogul Steve Wynn said Barkley's well-known status doesn't give him the right to mishandle his personal business. "Because we're a celebrity, we just don't get to ignore people."

Before jetting off to New York, the Wynn Resorts chairman called the former NBA star a "wonderful, talented guy" who needs to rethink the way he conducts his personal business.

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal said Barkley had stayed in contact with the resort, and company officials initially believed he would repay $400,000 in markers extended to him in October.

But about two months ago, Pascal explained, the resort stopped hearing from Barkley.

"There was a point in time when he didn't return our calls," Pascal said. "We felt like the only recourse we had was to file with the district attorney."

As a result of taking legal action against him, the casino received a $400,000 cashier's check from Barkley about noon Tuesday, Pascal said, and Wynn Las Vegas turned it over to the district attorney's office.

In addition to spurring a criminal case against Barkley, as the Sun first reported last week, the resort filed a lawsuit against him over the debt on May 14.

Under Nevada gaming regulations, casinos are obligated to take measures to collect gambling debts.

"We have to follow certain procedures," Wynn said. "When someone is not being completely responsible, we're required to follow through."

Barkley isn't totally out of trouble yet.

He still owes the district attorney's bad check unit, which is handling the criminal investigation, a 10 percent fee — $40,000 — before it can drop the case. The fee is required by state law to help support the unit.

Late on Tuesday, TNT, the network for which Barkley is now a basketball analyst, issued a statement claiming he had been unaware of the additional $40,000 fee and would pay it promptly.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski, however, said Barkley would have been informed of the additional fee in a letter the bad check unit sent to him last week. And many, if not most, of the stories about the debt published throughout the nation over the past week also noted the fee.

Zadrowski, who oversees the unit, said Barkley also still owes $100 in bank processing fees, as well as $50 for a bad check course, run by the district attorney's office, that Barkley must complete before the case will be dismissed. Gambling debts are treated like bad checks under Nevada law.

The course includes the workbook "How to Bounce Back From a Bad Check ... and Stay Financially Healthy," which must be filled out and returned to Zadrowski's office.

"Until restitution is fully satisfied, we will proceed with the prosecution," Zadrowski said.

Wynn Las Vegas, Zadrowski said, will get its $400,000 after Barkley fulfills his obligations to the bad check unit.

Barkley told a national cable audience on his NBA pregame show on TNT late Monday that the dispute with Wynn Las Vegas has caused him to give up gambling, at least for a year or two.

"That may be the right thing for him to do," Wynn said Tuesday. "I think it's a bad idea for anybody to gamble with money they don't have."

Wynn said when Barkley was given the $400,000 loan in October, his financial records showed him to be creditworthy.

Barkley has said he spent the $400,000 on a losing Super Bowl bet.

But Wynn said his casino doesn't give out markers for sports bets. Barkley, he said, would have obtained the $400,000 to play table games, in Barkley's case blackjack.

He could have cashed out from the table games, however, to place a sports wager without the casino's knowledge, Wynn said.