Here are some stories about casino players who were not paid out by casinos they played at.
In 2011, Pauline McKee, a 90-year-old grandmother, played a "Miss Kitty" penny slot machine that told her she had won more than $41.8 million at the Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo, Iowa. But it turns out the casino doesn't have to pay her, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled. Instead, she won a mere $1.85 on her bet. The machine gave her a 185-credit win while also declaring on the screen a "Bonus Award" of $41,797,550.16. McKee said that she had her doubts from the start because it was a very large payout for a penny slot machine.
After seemingly winning the jackpot, McKee and her daughter summoned an attendant who talked to a supervisor. The casino told McKee that they would get a free hotel room while they were looking into the machine. The next day, the casino’s management told McKee that they had contacted the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, who would study the machine. After an investigation in a laboratory, they concluded that the machine’s hardware erroneously awarded the bonus. The manufacturer of the game, Aristocrat Technologies, had previously issued a bulletin that the game may show an erroneous bonus, with a recommendation to casinos to disable the bonus option.
The court ruling stated that by playing, McKee entered into a binding contract governed by rules which could be displayed on the machine. The rules made no mention of any bonus, so therefore the court concluded that McKee was only entitled only to the $1.85 (a sign posted on the front of the machine also states, "Malfunction voids all pays and plays.") Therefore, the message that appeared on the screen indicating the player would receive a $41 million bonus was a "gratuitous promise," and the casino's failure to pay it could not be challenged as a breach of contract. According to the report, the ruling will ensure fairness in the gambling industry, since casinos are required to follow the rules that are posted on the games. If either the players or casinos could change the rules in the middle of the game, it would be bad for everybody.
McKee said she is a widow who lives on Social Security and is a grandmother of 13. She had been at the casino during a family reunion and was hoping to help her children out financially with her winnings. McKee said she still plays the slots occasionally — but not at Isle Casino, since they didn't give her anything more than the minimum they had to by law.
To be fair, computer glitches with such large casino jackpots are indeed rare. And the casino could have been forced into bankruptcy they had to pay out. The $41 million payout would equal about half of the casino's gross revenue the casino the last year. But I think it would have been nice for the casino to at least give McKee the highest posted payout though, which the court said was $10,000.
A New Jersey casino, the Golden Nugget, has sued a group of gamblers who won $1.5 million after they allegedly realized the eight decks of cards used in a game of mini baccarat were not preshuffled. The casino filed suit against the gamblers and playing card company Gemaco after 14 players collectively won $1,536,700 in 41 winning hands, while increasing their bets from $10 to $5,000.
The casino says that the gamblers unlawfully took advantage of the casino when they noticed the pattern and passed money to fellow gamblers in order to place bets that were in excess of the posted betting limits. In the lawsuit filed, the casino cited gambling regulations that state gaming odds must be fair for both sides. The attorney for the gamblers said his clients, who did not know each other, were playing the game lawfully.
The Golden Nugget is seeking a return of the $558,900 it paid out to several of the players and the nearly $1 million worth of chips that the players still possess. After paying out a portion of the winnings, the casino managers became suspicious because they thought that the gamblers were part of a sophisticated cheating scheme. The casino refused to cash in the remaining $1 million in chips. In New Jersey, a casino chip is evidence of a debt.
Although no evidence of a scheme was found, the Golden Nugget learned by "direct admission" from Gemaco's CEO that the decks used in the baccarat game were unshuffled, despite the fact that the decks were passed onto the casino as certified preshuffled.
Three of the gamblers filed a countersuit against the casino alleging they were discriminated against because they were Chinese. One of the players claims that he was assaulted when he answered the door of his hotel room. He said that he was pinned against a wall, his belongings searched, and he was then held in a room without access to food, water or an interpreter, according to allegations in the countersuit. The Golden Nugget called the claims completely false, saying that they would never discriminate against anyone in the Asian community, and in fact, built an Asian gaming area and restaurant to specifically attract Asian guests to the casino.
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