Published May 16, 2008
LAS VEGAS – Charles Barkley acknowledged he owes a $400,000 gambling debt to a Las Vegas Strip casino and promised Thursday to repay it after a prosecutor said the retired NBA star faced criminal charges. "My mistake," Barkley said in an interview at a pro-am golf tournament in Hoover, Ala. "I'm not broke, and I'm going to take care of it."
Barkley was responding to comments by Clark County District Attorney David Roger, who said prosecutors would file a criminal complaint if he did not pay the debt cited by the Wynn Las Vegas resort.
"He'll have an opportunity like anybody else to make restitution to the hotel," Roger said.
The casino alleged in a civil complaint filed Wednesday in a Nevada state court and first reported by the Las Vegas Sun that Barkley failed to repay four $100,000 casino markers, or loans, received last Oct. 18 and 19.
"To date, and despite repeated demands, Barkley has refused to repay the $400,000," the complaint said.
In a radio interview with sports station WJOX in Birmingham, Ala., Barkley repeatedly blamed himself for letting the debt lapse.
He told radio interviewers and a reporter at the golf tournament that the debt stemmed from a wager on the 2008 Super Bowl. He did not explain why Wynn alleged the loans were made in October.
"I've been gambling 20 years. I've never had this happen before," the 45-year-old Barkley told WJOX. "It's my fault I let the time lapse. I screwed up."
Barkley, now a basketball analyst for Turner Network Television, denied any personal financial problems, and said the casino didn't call him before filing the complaint.
"All they had to do is call and say, 'Hey, you owe us this money,'" he said.
A Wynn Las Vegas spokeswoman did not immediately respond to Barkley's comments. A hotel official earlier declined comment on the court case, citing ongoing litigation.
Barkley could be granted up to six months to pay if he agrees to the standard district attorney's office restitution program, bad check unit chief Bernie Zadrowski said. He would be responsible for the $400,000 plus a 10 percent program fee totaling $40,000.
Roger said that if the case remains unresolved, as many as four felony theft or four felony bad check charges could be filed. The possible penalty for each theft conviction is one to 10 years in state prison. A conviction on a felony bad check charge could carry a one- to four-year term.
Barkley played 16 NBA seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets. He was named league MVP in 1993 and was an 11-time NBA All-Star. Barkley also played on the USA Olympic "Dream Team" in 1992 and 1996.
Barkley has made no secret of his gambling over the years. He estimated during a May 2006 interview with ESPN that he'd gambled away about $10 million over the years.
"Do I have a gambling problem? Yeah, I do have a gambling problem," Barkley said. "But I don't consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble."
He said he never bet on basketball, and only bet in casinos. He called it a bad habit, but said he intended to continue.