Court Ruling Saves Casino From Bankruptcy


A 90-year-old grandmother won more than $41 million playing a penny slot machine at a casino in Iowa. At least that is what the machine she was sitting at indicated.

According to the Associated Press, Pauline McKee learned that the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the casino does not have to pay her the millions.  A machine at the Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo, Iowa gave her a 185 credit win, then posted on the screen:  “The reels have rolled your way!  Bonus Award $41,797,550.16.”

Because the court ruled that the Isle Casino Hotel does not have to pay the bonus millions she thought she had won,  she won $1.85 on the bet.

Why didn’t the casino have to award McKee the “Bonus Award” as declared on the machine?  The court said the game’s rules did cap jackpots at $10,000 and did not allow bonuses.  The message regarding the bonus award was a “gratuitous promise” and the casino did not have to honor it.

Pauline McKee is a widow, a grandmother of 13, and lives on social security.  She sued to collect the prize.  A state investigation concluded the bonus award was due to a software error and not valid.  The court ruling not only sided with the casino, but also stated that Ms. McKee be paid the $1.85 owed to her and the casino gave her a free hotel room.

If the court had ruled the other way, the casino could have been forced into bankruptcy, according to one of the casino’s attorneys.  A payout as grand as 41 million dollars would amount to around half of the yearly revenue generated by the casino last year.

77864060How did the court determine the final ruling in favor of the casino?  Here’s what happened on the night of the disputed bonus award winnings, according to McKee’s lawsuit:

McKee sat down at a “Miss Kitty” slot machine next to her daughter.  After playing 25 cents, the machine’s screen indicated she won 185 credits ($1.85) then displayed a “bonus award” notice of almost $41.8 million.

After summoning an attendant, McKee and her daughter watched an employee open the machine’s main door to clean the central processor.  A picture was taken of the display, and the casino’s technician restarted the game.

While she waited for a supervisor to make a few phone calls, McKee was given a $10 card to play other machines while she waited.  McKee was paid $18.10 (money she had won overall on up to that point in time) and because the casino was looking into the machine, she would get a free hotel room for the night (McKee was in town for a family reunion).

The situation was deemed “unusual” by the casino’s vice president and general manager. They comped McKee’s family for the hotel rooms they used. The casino informed McKee that they had contacted the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission and that the machine would have to be secured and studied.

After conducting its own investigation through a testing laboratory, the Gaming Commission concluded that the machine’s hardware mistakenly awarded the bonus.

Aristocrat Technologies, the manufacturer of the game, had issued a bulletin that the game might show an bonus in error, thus recommending to casinos to disable the bonus option.

By playing the machine, the court ruling stated, McKee entered a binding contract governed by the rules and pay table (which could be displayed on the machine by pressing a button). A sign on the front of the machine also reads, “Malfunction voids all pays and plays.”

There are no rules mentioning any bonus, so, the court concluded that McKee was only entitled to the $1.85 winning.


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