LAS VEGAS — A professional poker player who has won six World Series of Poker event championships since 1993 and millions of dollars in tournaments is fighting felony theft and bad check charges in Las Vegas, where a casino accuses him of failing to repay $215,000 in gambling debts.
William “Ted” Forrest’s defense attorney, Chris Rasmussen, said Friday his client believes his longstanding dispute with the Wynn Las Vegas resort is a civil issue, not a criminal matter.
“It was a loan. He didn’t commit a crime,” Rasmussen said. “They sent him to the bank to open a $100 bank account. They knew he didn’t have the money. And now they take years to prosecute.”
Forrest, 51, appeared Thursday before a Las Vegas judge, who let him remain free without bail pending an Oct. 18 preliminary hearing to determine if the case will be tried in state court. He could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted of both charges.
Forrest is accused of failing to repay debts underwritten by IOUs known as casino markers at the Wynn casino in October 2012 and May 2013.
Nevada treats markers like fraudulent bad checks under a 1995 state law that serves as a model for other states with casinos.
The Nevada Supreme Court last year rejected one high-roller’s challenge of the process that lets Nevada resorts turn to county prosecutors to collect unpaid gambling debts, and allows prosecutors to collect a 10 percent processing and prosecution fee with any settlement.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2crcWgs) that Forrest has won more than $6 million in tournaments over the years.