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When most people think of high rollers, they often think of a scene that would not look out of place in a James Bond film – tuxedos, Martinis, Monte Carlo, poker. Hollywood has done much to create an image of high rollers that oozes sex appeal and adventure but the truth is that high rollers can be anybody with a large bank account and a thirst for thrills.
While there is no doubt that some VIP casino players that could give Mr Bond a run for his money in the glamour stakes, many high rollers are not so much Hollywood stars as business tycoons, real-life royalty, top athletes and entrepreneurs. The high roller usually has a budget of anywhere from $100,000 to about a million to spend during a three-day trip to a casino. ‘Whales’ on the other hand set themselves a budget of up to $20 million to spend.
While there are no doubt casino players that could give Mr Bond a run for his money in the glamour stakes, many high rollers are not so much Hollywood stars as business tycoons, real-life royalty, top athletes and entrepreneurs.
Take Adnan Khashoggi for example. This international businessman has ties to the Saudi Arabian royal family (his father was the personal physician to the Saudi King) and in the 1980’s stripped the Ritz Casino in London of over £3.2 million, over some 12 visits. Although at 81 Khashoggi’s wild gambling sprees may be behind him, he currently lives in Monaco, no doubt a convenient distance from a casino, should the mood strike him.
The current Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, also has some pretty legendary casino trips under his belt. He enjoys gambling in London and Vegas, often taking secretive trips to spend hours at the tables. At one point, it was rumoured that he would lose up to $1M a day.
Kamel Nacif Borge is currently one of the richest men in Mexico, thanks to his textiles empire and his high-stakes gambling. Borge’s company makes clothing for brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie & Fitch. He visits Las Vegas frequently, wagering up to $200,000 per hand in Baccarat.
NBA star Charles Barkley may have retired in 2000 but he remains a huge influence in the game, and he estimates he’s lost some $30M over his lifetime. Barkley is a blackjack enthusiast and has a reputation for being very friendly and accommodating to his fans, who are allowed to watch him play.
Of course, many online platforms have their own high roller players too. Some VIP casinos offer particularly interesting perks in order to attract these big spenders, following the example of land-based casinos in offering auxiliary and complementary services to entice players. After all, the products on offer are very similar – it’s the extras that really make a casino stand out.
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