Inside the dark, fantasy world of millionaire ‘whales’ at casinos, who receive ridiculous perks and are under harsh scrutiny since the Las Vegas shooting

Las Vegas casinos like the Bellagio offer huge perks to attract high rollers.

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Las Vegas casinos like the Bellagio offer huge perks to attract high rollers.
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Facebook/bellagiolasvegas

The life of a Las Vegas high roller is the stuff of fantasy, with things like penthouse suites, gourmet meals, and VIP concerts – and most of it doesn’t even come out of gamblers’ pockets.

It’s in casinos’ best interests to persuade gamblers to come back again and again and to stay as long as possible – often in the resort attached to the casino – so they roll out the red carpet and pile on the perks.

However, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting earlier this month, questions have been raised about whether these perks could be abused. The gunman, Stephen Paddock, reportedly had high-roller status in at least one Las Vegas casino.

Here’s a look into the lives of high rollers – and what these perks involve.


The most high-profile high rollers in the world of gambling are called “whales,” people who regularly wager thousands or millions of dollars in a single night.


While poker players have the leading role in most high-roller legends, baccarat is the game of choice for most whales, says Shaun Kelley, a research analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Source: Business Insider


Whales might wager $5 million in one night — so casinos want to persuade them to visit as much as possible.

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REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Source: The Associated Press


Casinos offer known whales perks like free luxury cars, discounts on gambling losses, and even shopping funds — which are especially helpful if they have a spouse who is less interested in spending hours in a casino.

source
Romotive

Private concerts for high rollers are a classic ploy casinos use to persuade VIPs to visit more often.

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Sean “Diddy” Combs hosting a party at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
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Erik Kabik Photography/ MediaPunch/IPX

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas spent millions of dollars redesigning its highest floors, turning them into 21 penthouse suites, which were completed earlier this year.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal


These penthouses and other hotel rooms are often discounted or comped by the casino if the gambler is known to bet big.

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The Platinum Hotel in Las Vegas.
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Courtesy of The Platinum Hotel

High-rolling VIPs play with other VIPs at reserved tables, typically near the main floor — or sometimes in “more exclusive and restricted-access areas,” Kelley said.

Source: Business Insider


Even high rollers who don’t quite meet whale status typically play in private rooms and receive other perks reserved for people willing to wager more money than the average gambler.

source
Lucky Dragon Las Vegas

Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut would send a limo to the Boston home of Nick Varano, a high roller, two or three times a month to drive him to the casino. Varano told The Associated Press in 2006 that he would spend “a minimum of at least $1,000 to $10,000.”

Source: The Associated Press


Foxwoods would provide Varano and his friends food on the house — and that’s just the start of the culinary benefits of gambling big.


Many hotel-casinos have upscale restaurants within their walls.

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CUT by Wolfgang Puck is in the Palazzo.
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Cut

Joel Robuchon’s restaurant in the Mansion at the MGM Grand is widely seen as Las Vegas’ best. The restaurant critic Jay Rayner says the MGM offers high rollers a meal — which costs roughly $600 per person — for free.

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Megan Willett/Business Insider

Source: “The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner


The perks high rollers enjoy have been cast in a darker light after the Las Vegas shooting earlier this month.


The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was known as a high roller, sometimes gambling with more than $10,000 a day playing high-stakes video poker.

Source: NBC News


Experts told USA Today that Paddock could have likely received perks such as rooms with better views, private check-in service, and an extra layer of privacy from hotel staff (Paddock reportedly had a “do not disturb” sign hung on his door for his four-day stay at Mandalay Bay).

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Broken windows are seen on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino after Paddock opened fire.
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David Becker/Getty Images

Source: USA Today


“If they want to hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door for four days, and anybody says it’s unusual, then we say to leave them alone,” Mike Wootan, a retired casino manager, told USA Today. “We don’t want to go rattling their cages or make them feel uncomfortable.”

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Paddock reportedly set one of three cameras up on this room service cart to monitor the hallway.
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Bild exclusive/Polaris

Source: USA Today


Paddock was reportedly able to use the Mandalay Bay freight elevator as a high-roller perk. It is unclear how Paddock used the elevator. However, when law enforcement officers entered his room after the shooting, they found 10 suitcases filled with guns.

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Guns strewn about Stephen Paddock’s Mandalay Bay hotel room.
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The Daily Mail

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal