Steven Spielberg’s Huge Star Wars Profits

Wait a minute: Steven Spielberg didn’t make Star Wars. That was George Lucas, right?

Correct: but Spielberg nevertheless made around $40-million from the first Star Wars film, thanks to a bet struck between him and George Lucas on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Back in 1976, the two young filmmakers were already friends, but Spielberg had achieved his first mainstream success with Jaws, and as a result was granted substantial financing for Close Encounters.

Lucas was still struggling to bring his six-year Star Wars dream to fruition, working on an absolute shoestring budget. The way Spielberg tells it, when Lucas visited him on the Close Encounters set, the impressive resources devoted to the production set off a crisis of confidence in his pal.

Convinced Close Encounters would be a huge hit and Star Wars would flop, George jokingly offered to give Steven 2.5% of the Star Wars receipts in return for 2.5% of the Close Encounters box office. Spielberg agreed, and Close Encounters did indeed earn $304 million worldwide, which was a big chunk of change in 1976.

However, as everyone now knows, Star Wars was simply huge. The first film grossed around $775 million internationally, meaning that Spielberg made around $40 million, adjusted for inflation, from the bet. Best of all, Lucas paid up, and they have remained friends to this day.

Kerry Packer Deflates Texan Windbag

The late Australian media tycoon and cricket entrepreneur Kerry Packer always embodied no-frills Ocker plain speaking, with no time for pretension or pomposity. He also loved casino games, and was legendary in Las Vegas both for the amounts that he could drop on the tables, and his generosity to staff.

One famous tale demonstrates his attitude perfectly. Like all such stories, it has grown in the telling, and details of what exactly occurred vary, with the sum mentioned ranging from $50 million to $100 million. But the gist of the exchange has been confirmed by no less an authority than Mirage Resorts boss Bobby Baldwin, who witnessed it.

Apparently, Packer was playing cards at a Vegas casino, when a pushy Texan tried to buy in and was told it was a private, high-stakes table. Objecting to the preferential treatment Packer was getting, the cattle baron (or perhaps oil man) claimed to be a high-roller too, saying, “I’m worth $100 million!” At which point, Packer responded, “Well, if you really want to gamble, I’ll toss you for it.” Which ended the exchange, and officially made the Aussie Coolest Man in the Casino that night…

Grandma Gets Lucky with World Craps Record

It’s not only the rich and famous who generate classic gambling tales. On 23 May 2009, Denville, New Jersey grandmother Patricia Demauro decided to try her luck at craps in an Atlantic City casino.

Four hours and 13 minutes later, Demauro walked away from the table after setting a new world record for the longest craps roll in history. It beat the previous record, set by Hawaiian visitor Stanley Fujitake in Las Vegas 20 years earlier, by one hour and 12 minutes.

Even more amazingly, it was only Demauro’s second time playing craps. She rolled the dice 154 times without hitting a 7, creating the longest craps winning streak ever and securing 25 Pass Line wins. It’s estimated that players betting on her roll won around $180,000 off the house during her spree.

These are just three of the classic stories that make the world of gambling so entertaining. As all three examples show, betting is at its most exciting when the unexpected happens.