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Deal him out

The Baltimore Sun

Charles Barkley is a Las Vegas kind of guy - something he's not shy about.

He said during a radio interview last year that he won about $700,000 gambling in Sin City around the time of the Indianapolis Colts-Chicago Bears Super Bowl. According to his green-felt war stories, his game of choice is blackjack.

It's also clear he bets because Barkley mentioned that he won some money on Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.

But at the same time, he admitted to losing $2.5 million in six hours in 2006. Previously, Barkley had estimated his career casino losses at $10 million.

Some folks in Las Vegas take Barkley's contentions with a grain of salt because gamblers, in general, have a tendency to exaggerate their wins and losses.

Maybe it serves Barkley's purposes as a celebrity to couch his gambling in bigger-than-life terms. But what is real is that yesterday news broke that Barkley is being sued by the Wynn Las Vegas for $400,000 in unpaid gambling markers he signed in October. Markers are IOUs to the casino.

One more thing: In Nevada, not paying a marker is tantamount to passing a bad check and the consequences are similar, meaning criminal charges. The Clark County district attorney said he might take action.

I expect that this is all part of public rebuke to get a well-heeled slow payer to come up with the cash because it's hard to imagine that Barkley can't make arrangements to pay the debt.

"Do I have a gambling problem? Yeah, I do have a gambling problem," Barkley once said. "But I don't consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble."

Well, it seems the Wynn Las Vegas would beg to differ.

And one wonders when it gets to this point whether this kind of gambling ceases to be the trademark vice of a wealthy bon vivant and crosses over to pathology.

Dig the gambling hole deep enough and no pockets are deep enough to get out.

I've seen it before. I once covered the home eviction of a man named Leonard Tose.

Tose, now deceased, used to own the Philadelphia Eagles.

He also once had a helicopter that flew him to Eagles games at Veterans Stadium; he had a seven-bedroom French-style mansion in Radnor, Pa.; and he had one humongous gambling jones.

Tose went through two fortunes. The first was part of a family trucking legacy. And after much of that cash went to the casinos and he was forced to sell his football team, Tose also went through the tens of millions he received in the sale of the Eagles and found himself - on his 81st birthday - chased from his opulent home.

Barkley was an exciting player during his 16 NBA seasons. He's an entertaining and funny basketball analyst for TNT. And his telephone Fave Five commercials are hilarious.

But while stories of Barkley's gambling appetite may have been amusing on first or second hearing, it's becoming obvious that there's nothing humorous about the dangerous road he's clearly heading down.

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