Many gamblers dream of winning $1 million or more. Of course, only a small percentage actually accomplish this goal due to the difficulties that gambling presents.
Therefore, you might think that any notion of a gambler winning $1 billion is a tall tale. Less than 3,000 billionaires exist in the world, and they don’t put “professional gambler” on their business cards.
However, sources suggest that Zeljko Ranogajec has accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of betting his way to $1 billion in profits.
Is this really possible? I’ll discuss more on Ranogajec and his accomplishments along with if it’s really possible for him to have won 10 figures through gambling.
Who Is Zeljko Ranogajec?
Zeljko Ranogajec is an Australian professional gambler. He was born in Hobart, Australia, to Croatian immigrants.
Ranogajec was a solid student and eventually went on to attend the University of Tasmania, where he studied banking, finance, and tax laws. It’s during this time that he found his true passion at a local casino.
Zeljko began playing blackjack for real money at Wrest Point Casino. He eventually became a card counter and started making serious money. Ranogajec spent so much time in Wrest Point that he even met his future wife, Shelley Wilson, at the casino.
He and Wilson eventually moved to New South Wales so that he could continue studying at the University of NSW (Sydney). However, Zeljko later dropped out due to his highly successful gambling career.
Ranogajec’s Gambling Successes
Zeljko Ranogajec is easily one of the most successful gamblers of all time, if not THE most successful. Here’s a look at the various routes that he took to become a big winner.
Betting on horse racing is Ranogajec’s bread and butter. He employs a solid strategy that has enabled him to make massive profits from horse betting over the years.
His approach involves:
- Focusing on bets with high liquidity (i.e. betting pools that contain lots of wagers from the general public)
- Using a sophisticated betting system to identify potential winners
- Working out loss rebates with bookmakers
Regarding the latter point, Ranogajec bets so much money that he can negotiate rebate deals with bookmaking companies. For example, he has a significant rebate with Australia’s Tabcorp.
The bulk of Ranogajec’s winnings come from horse racing. Therefore, he’s created a large business out of the matter.
He’s developed a network of analysts, bettors, and administrators to provide information. Although Ranogajec doesn’t technically employ anybody directly, he unofficially employs over 300 Australians in his pursuit for racing info.
While Zeljko may be best known for his horse betting prowess, he was also an outstanding blackjack player years ago.
He no longer needs to play advantage blackjack these days. But early in his career, he developed a reputation for being one of the game’s best.
Ranogajec started with a relatively small bankroll worth a few hundred dollars. He turned this miniscule amount into millions of dollars by counting cards and using other advantage play methods.
Eventually, he got banned from Jupiters Casino and other Gold Coast-area gambling establishments. Ranogajec moved to the United States and played blackjack there until he was kicked out of Atlantic City and Vegas casinos as well. He started dedicating more time to horse racing after the bans began adding up.
Despite having not played for a while, Ranogajec is still a blackjack legend. He entered the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2011.
Ranogajec used to play keno quite a bit in New South Wales. In 1994, he won a massive jackpot worth $7.5 million at North Ryde RSL Club.
He didn’t have any special advantage in keno. Instead, Zeljko simply kept betting until he eventually won the giant payout.
Ranogajec Is Responsible for the Downfall of a State-Owned Gambling Company
As mentioned before, Ranogajec works out deals with various bookmakers to get lucrative rebates. He has an especially good mutual relationship with Tabcorp.
However, not all of Ranogajec’s deals end up so great for the operator. Case in point, Tote Tasmania closed down in 2011 due to the big rebates that they gave Ranogajec.
In a court case involving an ex-associate, Ranogajec explained the strategy to the courtroom. Zeljko said he’d bet so much that even when losing, he’d still rake in a profit.
With a 10% rebate, for example, he could only earn $95 on every $100 wagered and still come out ahead by $5.
Such favorable deals allowed Ranogajec to earn around $52 million over three-and-a-half years betting on US horse races alone. Only around 15% of this amount came from actual winnings, while the other 85% was due to rebates.
Tote Tasmania had backed themselves into a corner based on the rebate they’d agreed to with Ranogajec. The Treasurer of Tasmania eventually sold the state-owned company off to Tabcorp to salvage something from Tote.
Taxes Reveal Nothing
One look into Zeljko Ranogajec’s taxes could potentially clear up how much he makes each year. The only problem, though, is that gambling winnings aren’t taxable under Australian law.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has repeatedly looked into Ranogajec’s betting to determine if he does need to pay any taxes.
They reopened the probe again, though, in 2008. After spending years on the case, they got Ranogajec and his longtime business partner, David Walsh, to agree to a settlement in 2012.
The deal is completely confidential and only covers the years between 2004 and 2011. Therefore, no information regarding Ranogajec and his earnings were released after the settlement.
Do the Numbers Add Up to $1 Billion?
The only real sources on Zeljko’s net worth are the Australian Rich List and Daily Telegraph. According to the Rich List, Ranogajec is the 164th richest person in the Land Down Under with a $600 million AUD net worth.
Assuming this list is fairly accurate, then Ranogajec isn’t worth $1 billion. However, he could’ve easily won this amount and more over the course of his career.
The Daily Telegraph spoke to an unnamed relative of Ranogajec. The relative heard that “he’s a multi-billionaire.” Of course, this hearsay doesn’t constitute actual evidence that Zeljko is worth billions. However, it’s something that helps confirm he’s worth a massive fortune.
What Is Zeljko Ranogajec Doing Today?
Ranogajec has moved from Australia to London. He works as a consultant for Newfield Limited, which is a sports event and international racing company.
He’s no doubt still gambling on racing as well. After all, Zeljko is one of the world’s best horse bettors and will likely continue to be for the rest of his life.
Aside from his betting and business activities, though, little is know about Ranogajec. He’s a very private person who doesn’t give interviews and speak to the media much.
He did break his silence, though, when asked about his potential multibillion-dollar net worth. Ranogajec simply stated that such figures are “just a big exaggeration.”
A 2018 feature by the Daily Mail claims that Zeljko enjoys a lavish lifestyle. This article discusses how the 59-year-old lives a jet-setting lifestyle with his family, including Shelly and their teenage daughter.
It also reiterates that Ranogajec enjoys living as privately as possible. Therefore, he’s unlikely to ever spill the details on his true gambling winnings or net worth.
Back to the original question, has Zeljko actually won $1 billion in profits? Yes and no. The word “won” must be used quite liberally here. Ranogajec didn’t actually win everything that he’s made through betting.
Instead, the bulk of his profits came from favorable rebate deals with racebook operators. He may have enjoyed as high as a 10% rebate with the now-defunct Tote Tasmania (now part of Tabcorp).
Technically speaking, though, Zeljko has probably won $1 billion through wagering when counting rebates. He’s worth anywhere between $600 million and billions, even when accounting for his lavish, but private, lifestyle.
Ranogajec shows the pinnacle of what’s possible with betting. He’s earned the type of wealth through gambling that’s normally reserved for the world’s most elite hedge fund managers and business owners.