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Million-Dollar Gambler Commits Suicide, Broke at End

February 6, 1985 GMT

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ A Texan who lost $1 million on a single roll of dice but apparently died penniless will get his last wish to have his ashes placed in an urn bearing the inscription ″The Phantom Gambler,″ a casino owner says.

″I’d want to make sure he did himself right,″ said Ted Binion of Binion’s Horseshoe Club, where high-roller William Lee Bergstrom made his last big play.

Bergstrom, 33, of Austin, was known widely as the ″Phantom Gambler″ because of three bets he made since 1980, each more than $500,000, on single throws of dice at the Horseshoe Club’s craps tables.


He was found dead of an apparent drug overdose Monday in his hotel room, police said.

Bergstrom’s $1 million bet last November was the largest amount ever bet on a single toss of the dice in a legal casino, Binion said.

″He told me he’d wake up in the middle of the night 30 days before making the bet and decide to do it,″ he said. ″When he bet the $1 million he brought $700,000 in cash and the rest of it in cashier’s checks and dumped it at the casino cage.″

Berstrom talked with him for more than an hour Sunday night, despondent over the breakup of a relationship, Binion said.

″He kind of gave me his last story on Sunday,″ Binion said. ″I could tell he was quite despondent and I told him in six months he’d be over with it and it wouldn’t hurt so bad.

″I didn’t wake up to the fact he was going to kill himself because he was talking about how he’d like to go to work for us in the future.″

Binion said he had seen two previous suicide notes written by Bergstrom and police told him the final suicide note held the same request as the others - that his ashes be put in an urn with the inscription ″The Phantom Gambler, Bet $1 Million at the Horseshoe Club, November 1984.″

Bergstrom, a native of La Grange, Texas, had some successful business dealings that allowed him to borrow $770,000 in September 1980, the first money he bet at the casino-hotel, Binion said.

He won that bet on the ″don’t pass″ line at a craps table and won again in March 1984 when he bet $538,000. But when he lost the $1 million five months later, ″it tapped him out,″ Binion said.

Bergstrom went to the Horseshoe Saturday night with $10,000 but either gave it away or gambled it at another casino and died broke, he said.

Binion said whenever Bergstrom made huge wagers ″he was betting all he had. But he never flinched when he lost that million.″