Thursday, May 15, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Wynn Las Vegas filed a lawsuit in District Court on Wednesday to force former National Basketball Association star Charles Barkley to pay back $400,000 in gambling markers the casino alleges it extended him last year.
The casino also persuaded the Clark County district attorney’s bad check unit to open a criminal investigation. The unit has authority under state law to investigate gambling debts in the same manner as bad checks.
District Attorney David Roger said Barkley will be notified of the investigation and given an opportunity to make restitution to Wynn Las Vegas to avoid being charged with a felony.
“We prosecute cases like this every day,” Roger said. “Mr. Barkley will be treated the same as everybody else.”
Barkley has been appearing as a studio analyst on the cable TV network TNT, which is airing the NBA playoffs. Efforts to reach him at the TNT studios in Atlanta late Wednesday were unsuccessful.
In a May 2006 ESPN interview, Barkley acknowledged he had a gambling problem, estimating his losses totaled $10 million.
Lawyers for Wynn Las Vegas declined to comment. But in its four-page lawsuit, the resort said it had extended four $100,000 markers to Barkley, two each on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, that have not been paid back.
“By taking the $400,000 in credit and refusing to pay the amount despite repeated attempts, Barkley has wrongfully exercised dominion and control over Wynn’s property,” the suit said. “Barkley has exercised this dominion in derogation, exclusion and defiance of Wynn’s rights in its property.”
The suit, signed by Kimmarie Sinatra, general counsel for Wynn Resorts, the parent company of Wynn Las Vegas, also seeks attorneys fees, court costs and interest on the $400,000 from Barkley, whom it identifies as a resident of Arizona.
Barkley, voted the NBA’s most valuable player in 1993 as a member of the Phoenix Suns, is a frequent Las Vegas visitor. In a February 2007 interview with a Phoenix TV station, he claimed to have won $700,000 in one weekend on the Strip, mostly from blackjack and betting on the Super Bowl.
The 13-time NBA All-Star also has not been shy about discussing his struggles with gambling.
“It’s just a stupid habit that I’ve got to get under control, because it’s just not a good thing to be broke after all of these years,” Barkley was quoted as saying in his 2006 ESPN interview.
When questioned after the ESPN interview on his own TNT basketball show, Barkley talked about the frustrations of trying to beat the house in Las Vegas.
“But I’ve got to understand you can’t beat the casino,” he said. “You might win a lot of money from them, but in the long run they are going to win more money from you, and I’ve got to get to a point where I don’t gamble for as much.”