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Gold Coast Casino Addict Wants His Millions

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Jun/18/2009

(AAP) - It took just 43 minutes to bring Gold Coast property developer Harry Kakavas' professional gambling dream to an end.

By the time he left the Crown Casino table after a final hand of baccarat that lasted just a few seconds Mr Kakavas had lost $2.4 million.

Over a 15-month gambling spree between June 2005 and August 2006 the Gold Coast property developer turned over $1.5 billion at the casino's gambling tables and lost $30 million.

Mr Kakavas now found himself no longer wanted at Crown, and he claims he was broke.

The path to his losses began in June, 2005 when, after an absence of nearly a decade, Mr Kakavas was welcomed back to Crown with much extravagance.

The red carpet treatment included private jets, limousines and boxes containing $50,000 cash and he was allowed to bet $300,000 hands on one game of cards.

He is suing Crown in the Victorian Supreme Court for more than $20 million he claims he lost gambling there.

Mr Kakavas believes the casino took advantage of his addiction.

If the case is proved Crown could also be liable for $700 million, money Kakavas won while he was an "excluded person" from other casinos around Australia.

He excluded himself from casinos on a rotational basis from the late 1990s until 2005.

Rubbing shoulders with people such as the former chief of Crown Lloyd Williams in the Mahogany Room was a long way from Mr Kakavas' humble beginnings in suburban Melbourne.

He completed his HSC at Murrumbeena High School, spending time at Huntingdale Tech and La Trobe University where he studied Arts/Economics.

After university Mr Kavakas, aged about 25, found himself working for a real estate firm located next to the Rialto Tower which had a sports betting facility.

He began placing small bets, but he soon realised he loved the punting lifestyle and ended up borrowing money from friends and family, while at the same time keeping the reasons behind the loans secret.

A move to the Gold Coast and the life of a full time gambler didn't pay off.

"I didn't fully fulfil it because I ran out of money within three or four months," he told the court.

Back in Melbourne in 1994 he met gaming attendant John Williams, who would later become chief operating officer of Crown.

"By 1995, Your Honour, I became hooked on a game called baccarat ... quite a simple game to play, really takes no skill at all," Mr Kakavas told the court this week.

His addiction, he said, led him to commit a $286,000 fraud against a finance company, for which he later served four months jail in 1998.

Once out of prison Mr Kakavas returned to the Gold Coast where he saw an opportunity to invest in property.

He chose Hedges Avenue, Mermaid Beach, a 1.7km stretch of prime real estate that would become known as Millionaires' Row.

Success soon came as millions of dollars flowed his way but he still couldn't kick the gambling habit.

He would take out second mortgages on properties so he could visit casinos across Australia but realising his problem he he sought to have himself excluded from the majority of Australian casinos.

But even that wasn't successful because he headed to Las Vegas where he dropped "a tick over $US23 million" ($A30 million).

His lawyer Allan Myers, QC, said Crown executives heard about one of the trips to Las Vegas and decided they must woo back Mr Kakavas.

A Crown employee flew to the Gold Coast with a letter for him to sign saying he no longer had an addiction.

On his return to Crown it is claimed Mr Kakavas was given a new identity - Harry Kay and provided with free accommodation, meals and tickets to events such as the Australian Open tennis men's final.

He was even flown to the Philippines to "refresh".

It is alleged Mr Williams told Mr Kakavas he was receiving treatment reserved for "very, very special people".

"If Kerry Packer found out about this payment he would kill us," he allegedly told Mr Kakavas.

"Kerry Packer is the biggest gambler in the world and he doesn't get cash payments to play at casinos."

Crown's lawyer Neil Young, QC, denies Mr Kakavas was lured back to Crown.

"His losses were always within the limits that he repeatedly told employees he had set for himself," Mr Young said.

He said evidence would be offered from psychologists that problem gamblers could change their ways.

The civil trial before Justice David Harper will resume on Monday.

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