Slot Machine Tells Grandmother She Won $41 Million, Casino Awards Her Only $1.85
An 87-year-old grandmother thought she had hit the jackpot when a slot machine she was playing awarded her a bonus amount of $41,797,550.16 — except that a “glitch” meant she really only won less than 2 bucks.
Pauline McKee, who has 13 grandchildren and lives off of Social Security, was paying the slot machines at the Isle Hotel Casino in Waterloo, Iowa, in 2011 with her daughter during a family reunion when the event occurred.
McKee had played a “Miss Kitty” slot machine with a quarter when the machine’s video screen indicated her win was 185 credits, or $1.85. But it also displayed a notice of a “bonus award” of almost $41.8 million. The screen announced: “The reels have rolled your way! Bonus Award — $41,797,550.16.”
However, an investigation of the slot machine discovered that it had a software glitch. Both the hardware and software of the machine were sent to a laboratory for analysis by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. That’s when the bonus message error was discovered, according to the Associated Press.
When her money was eventually contested, McKee sued the casino in 2012, arguing that the machine’s glitch should not prevent her from collecting her winnings and that the casino breached a contract and had committed consumer fraud. According to the Chicago Tribune, McKee’s lawyers said there was,
“An implied contract with the customers is to pay whatever number they were awarded on the slot machine.”
Finally, this Friday, McKee learned how much she won and why. The Iowa Supreme Court determined that McKee won close to nothing because of how the symbols had aligned in the game. There was overall consensus that Isle Hotel Casino doesn’t owe McKee anything else because the maximum reward was $10,000, and “bonus awards” were not allowed. Judge Edward Mansfield found McKee’s argument to be “contrary to precedent and general contract.”
Since the rules made no mention of any bonus, Justice Mansfield said that McKee was only entitled to $1.85.
In the court ruling, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote:
“Any message appearing on the screen indicating the patron 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.”
There is, as McKee’s lawyers believed, an implied contract, but they didn’t realize that there’s also an “official” one, a binding contract between the casino and player that is very rarely read but is important to know, especially when it comes to large payouts. The contract is in effect whether or not the player reads the rules. In fact, a sign on the casino’s game read, “malfunction voids all pays and plays.”
One of the casino’s attorneys, Stacey Cormican, said the court’s decision will ensure fairness in Iowa’s large gambling industry. A court decision in favor of McKee would have bankrupted the Isle Hotel Casino because the payout would amount to about half of the gross revenue the casino generated last year, according to Cormican.
The sweet Antioch, Illinois retiree maintained a lighthearted disposition even after losing. McKee told the Chicago Tribune:
“I had my doubts from the start, because that’s a lot of money for a penny machine. I was hoping to help my children out financially, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
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