Hollywood Producer Gambled Away $25 Million on Horse Racing

‘NYPD Blue’ Creator Loses $100 Million and Gambled Away $25 Million on Horse Racing

The stories are coming out along with the lawsuits about Hollywood writer and producer David Milch, who has gambled away $25 million on horse racing and over $100 million overall.

The four-time Emmy Award winning writer-producer co-created the classic series NYPD Blue and HBO’s acclaimed Deadwood.

According to a lawsuit filed by Milch’s wife Rita against his agents, the race track regular has lost his homes and owes the IRS $17 million. In a lawsuit filed last year and proceeding in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica, it indicates Milch lost $25 million from gambling between 2000 and 2011 alone. Rita Milch is seeking damages from their business managers Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein & Bolno LLP (NKSFG), for not informing her of the full exent of her husband’s losses. Colleagues estimate he has earned more than $100 million across his three-decade Hollywood career, but the lawsuit reveals he is left with $17 million in debts.

The writer-producer always was considered brilliant but also eccentric: His writing style consists of dictating his thoughts, sometimes while lying prone on the ground, often surrounded by other writers.

“He’s obviously a genius and extraordinarily talented, and he’s got a fire that burns in him brighter than anyone else,” says horse trainer Darrell Vienna, who helped Milch connect with real-life cowboys and horse wranglers while doing research for Deadwood. “But it can cause a lot of damage. He’s an extraordinary person. He’s insightful in everything he does — people, horses, everything — and he’s very insightful about himself, and therein lies the rub. He’s a person of extremes.”

A self-confessed former drug user in the ’80s (“I was a bitter heroin addict at the time,” he told an MIT communications forum in 2006) as well as a gambler, Milch is well-known at racetracks, where he once owned several horses. Racing and gambling were the themes of his HBO series Luck, canceled in 2012 after three horses died during filming.

“He was one of the most devoted gamblers,” says John Perrotta, an author and adviser on that show. “He was very serious about it, and he was a very good handicapper.”

The formation of racing’s exotic bets was the subject of the first scenes of Luck, which Milch once described as his “love letter” to horse racing. Perrotta says they came directly from his experiences with the writer.

For several years, Milch owned a number of horses and twice won the coveted Breeders’ Cup — once with Gilded Time and then with Val Royal. He bought his first horse with his earnings from Hill Street and sold his last one in 2003.

One acquaintance familiar with Milch’s gambling habits describes a man who couldn’t stop betting once he got started: “He was crazy. He’d bet thousands and thousands of dollars. He’d bet every race.” Multiple people note that he was a regular at Santa Anita as well as at Hollywood Park, which ceased operation as a racetrack in 2013.


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