What would you do with a $43 million jackpot?
Every gambler dreams of winning big money—but as one woman learned, a big win doesn’t always mean a massive payout.
Katrina Bookman was playing the “Sphinx Slot Machine” at the Resorts World Casino in New York when it happened: She hit the jackpot. Her ticket read $43 million, which would have been the largest slot machine jackpot in United States history. She quickly snapped a picture with the screen, then waited for the casino to issue her winnings.
But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The casino claimed that the slot machine was broken, and according to the New York State Gaming Commission, the casino owners have no obligation to pay; all machines bear the disclaimer that “malfunctions void all pays and plays.”
Instead of $43 million, they said Bookman could receive $2.25 along with a steak dinner for her trouble.
Bookman refused either the $2.25 or the dinner, and instead, she hired attorney Alan Ripka.
“You can’t claim a machine is broken because you want it to be broken. Does that mean it wasn’t inspected? Does it mean it wasn’t maintained?” Ripka told CNNMoney. “And if so, does that mean that people that played there before [Bookman] had zero chance of winning?”
But Bookman may have a tough time winning her case. The slot machine that issued the erroneous jackpot had a maximum payout of $6,500, so in this case, the issue was legitimately a software glitch. In similar cases, courts have ruled in favor of casinos.
In one Iowa case, for example, a 90-year-old woman believed that she’d won $41 million at a penny slot machine.
Pauline McKee, the plaintiff in the case, recalled feeling “very nice” when she saw the enormous jackpot. However, a court ruled that the Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo, Iowa would only have to pay her a mere $1.85.
“I had my doubts from the
One of the casino’s attorneys claimed that the lawsuit’s outcome was vital to the health of the industry.
“Casinos are required to post rules and follow those rules. If either the patrons or casinos could change the rules in the middle of the game, it would be
“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,” wrote Justice Edward Mansfield in his decision for that case.
Bookman’s case seems very similar, but New York has markedly different casino regulations.
She’s hoping to receive her full $43 million, and says that the casino’s denial has left her “anxious, embarrassed, and depressed.”
In any case, this type of story isn’t great public relations for casinos; dozens of major media outlets have reported Bookman’s story, and the woman has received overwhelming support.
“I hate casinos, and seeing NY legalize more of them is a big mistake that will ruin lives,” wrote one reader on The Gothamist’s website. “This sounds like she deserves the money. If the machine was malfunctioning, that’s on the casino or the manufacturer, not her.”