Veronica Castillo hit the jackpot for an unimaginable amount: $8 million. But the casino refused to pay her. Can you imagine how she felt?
Veronica Castillo. Source: Tipos De Cancer
Veronica’s remarkable story is one in which you can’t help but feel for her. Here’s her story.
Risking it All on the Spin of a Slot Machine
A resident of Portland, Oregon, Veronica Castillo hoped that maybe eventually she might be lucky enough to experience the sort of life-changing win that she’d seen and heard about on TV and in the news. She wasn’t much of a gambler in general, but she wanted to try her luck one day.
Veronica decided to stop off at the Lucky Eagle Casino, which is located in Rochester, Washington State. As soon as she stepped through the casino doors, her attention was drawn to the rows of flashing, brightly-colored slot machines all around the place. Slot machines are one of the simplest games to play in a casino and tend to be very popular. The lights and sounds seem to lure you right in.
Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
At that moment, Veronica had no idea what she was getting herself into…
A Relaxing Day Turned into So Much More
Like many people who walk into casinos each day, Veronica was only there to have a good time and hang out for a while. She was on a trip, after all, and wanted to make the most of her time. Somewhere at the back of her mind, she hoped that maybe something unusual might happen, but she knew the chances were low.
Looking to Beat the Odds
Veronica is no fool. She knows that casino games, especially slot machines, always tend to favor ‘the house.’ The chances of winning a big jackpot on a slot machine are incredibly low, and people spend hours and hundreds of dollars on the same machine and never really get anything in return for their money and time. But Veronica didn’t care; she went for it.
Barry Weiss of at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic
Then, something unbelievable happened…
Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner
In November of 2015, Veronica decided she was going to spend a little while with the same machine, which is a tactic that many casino players like to use. It’s a little trick, where people pick their favorite machines or slots that they have a ‘good feeling about’ and can spend hours pulling the same lever over and over. Veronica picked a machine and sat down, inserting $100 and pulling the lever. Her first spin was a dud. She pulled again and was shocked to see that she had won!
A Little about Slot Machines
Let’s pause for a moment and understand a little bit about slot machines. Slot machines are among the most popular attractions at casinos. Why? Because anyone can win at any time. All it takes is a coin and a click, and a massive jackpot could be yours. But slot machines are anything but simple. In fact, these computerized technological innovations have some of the most advanced technology in the gaming industry.
What is it Exactly?
It’s all about the random number generator. Simply put, a random number generator is a highly complex software program that randomizes all outcomes to ensure that every spin generates a result that is independent of the previous spin in every way.
But there are things you should know if you like the slots…
This is Kind of a New Thing
The issue of malfunctioning slot machines is a fairly recent phenomenon. The reason for the malfunctions relates to the complexity of the software in the slot machine. Prior to the 1960s, the old-fashioned style slot machines would use randomly spinning drums which were pretty much impossible to malfunction and the maximum payout was no more than 100x the bet. The early electro-mechanical machines in the 1960s and 1970s were unsophisticated with low maximum payouts. So even if one did malfunction it probably would go unnoticed as slots offered a fairly small return.
Some Things You Should If You Play the Slots
You should be aware that your payout is always going to be less than your odds of winning in a slot game. Another thing you should know is that every time you spin the reels, a random outcome will result. That means that the outcome is no different from blackjack, roulette, a video poker game, craps shoot or a game of keno. Playing the slots gives the casino an edge in the long-term — just something to think about next time you’re in a casino.
Now, back to Veronica. Did she win the jackpot?
A Life-Changing Sum of Cash
Veronica didn’t win just $10. The cash prize was $8.5 million! Veronica couldn’t believe what was happening to her. As she sat there in total amazement, staring at the screen in front of her, she just couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Can you imagine?
But it was a fleeting moment until everything went downhill…
Dreaming of a Life of Luxury
Naturally, she started to think of everything she could do with all that cash. $8.5 million would be enough for anyone to have a real life of luxury and live just like a Hollywood star, never needing to work again. Unfortunately for Veronica, her dreams and fantasies were about to be shattered.
From Rags to Riches and Back Again
Only moments after she’d ‘won’ her huge cash prize, the casino workers came over to tell her that actually, she hadn’t won anything at all. They revealed that the slot machine she’d been playing on was defective. It had suffered some error that made it seem like she’d won all that cash, but in reality, she’d be going home empty-handed. Understandably, Veronica was devastated to hear this news.
The story becomes even more frustrating…
$8.5 Million Transforms Into $80
So what happened next? The casino workers turned off and unplugged the machine, removing it from the casino floor. Then, instead of $8.5 million, Veronica was given a check for a measly $80.35.
A Convenient Excuse for the Casino
Veronica was in a state of total disbelief. She couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening to her and demanded some explanation. In response, the casino staff showed her a sticker on the side of the slot machines which stated that all winnings could become void in the case of a machine malfunction.
So Veronica decides to take action…
Was The Casino Cheating?
Veronica listened patiently as the casino staff tried to wriggle out of the whole mess. She heard their excuses and saw the stickers, but she wasn’t accepting any of it. In her own words, this entire situation seemed like ‘cheating.’
She accused the casino of ‘fraudulent’ behavior and wondered if she was just one of many victims of this whole thing. It seemed very convenient that the staff would accuse the machine of malfunctioning right as it produced a big win.
The Casino Launches an Investigation
The boss of the casino, John Setterstrom, heard and understood Veronica’s complaints, but he maintained that the casino was in the right. He said he’d been working at the location for many years, going all the way back to the opening days of the Lucky Eagle Casino back in 1995, and he’d never seen a single case like this one before. He also said that a full investigation was going to be launched into the machine and why it had made such a big mistake.
The casino’s investigation shed some light on the matter…
The Casino Shares an Official Statement
A short while after the boss’ comments, the casino made an official statement regarding the whole incident. This statement didn’t bring much comfort to Veronica, but it did show that the casino was at least taking the entire matter seriously and trying to get to the bottom of the story.
Photo by Bernard Annebicque/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
In the statement, the casino said that the manufacturers of the machine, a company called Rocket Gaming Systems, were doing an in-depth investigation into the malfunction.
Additional Explanations Clarify the Problem
The statement didn’t stop there. The casino also shared specific information about the machine to prove that it indeed had malfunctioned and that they hadn’t made anything up to get out of paying Veronica her winnings. The statement explained that the machine is only capable of having a maximum jackpot of $20,000, so the idea of it offering millions of dollars is just impossible. In fact, with the amount of money Veronica was betting, she couldn’t have actually won more than $6,000.
Photo credit should read PAUL J.RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
The casino did try to make it up to Veronica…
An Official Apology Was Also Issued
The casino also released an apology to Veronica, sharing a sense of ‘deep regret’ over the situation. Clearly, the casino staff understood that the whole thing must have been quite a traumatic experience for Veronica.
It’s almost impossible to imagine how it must feel to think you’ve won a huge cash prize and then see it stolen away just moments later. The disappointment of such an event must be simply heartbreaking.
What Causes a Slot Machine to Malfunction?
If you’re curious as to why a machine malfunctions, The Nevada Gaming Control Board explains how and why. They said that “There are over 209,000 slot machines normally operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week in Nevada and unfortunately, on rare occasions, there are malfunctions. Malfunctions occur for a variety of reasons including, improper tampering, coin jams, empty hoppers, switch failures, computer chip failure, power outages and accidental contact (bumping).”
You might be wondering if this kind of thing has happened to other people…
Has This Happened Before?
Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York
Yes, as it turns out. One woman, Katrina Bookman, 44, thought she hit a $42.9 million jackpot at Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York, in 2016.
Crowds started to surround Katrina to congratulate her. But then security took her aside, and she was told that the machine had malfunctioned and there would be no payday. She hired a lawyer, and her case is pending.
Yet, Another Case of Machine Malfunction
Wind Creek Casino in Montgomery, Alabama
Construction worker Jerry Rape, 55, and his wife, Kim, were also playing slot machines and thought they won $1.3 million at the Wind Creek Casino in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2011. And, of course, a machine malfunction was the reason they were denied pay. Jerry also hired a lawyer.
And Another …
Another case of a slot machine malfunction happened in 2015. Pauline McKee, a 90-year-old woman, thought she won $41 million at the Isle Casino in Waterloo, Iowa. She was playing the Hello Kitty slot machine. She ended up suing the casino but lost because the Iowa Supreme Court said she had no case because the maximum payout on the machine was $10,000 and the “$41.8 million bonus award” the machine indicated was actually illogical. McKee instead was awarded $1.85 and legal fees.
And, of Course, Another
In Canada, in 2016, Paul Kusznirewicz apparently won $43 million on a Buccaneer slot machine, which is a 2 cent per spin play, at the Georgian Downs casino in Barrie, Ontario. The owner of the casino told him he didn’t win because the maximum payout was just over $9,000 and so he offered him dinner buffet coupons instead. Kusznirewicz sued, but like the other cases has no case because the maximum payout is a lot lower than what the machine displayed as the winning amount. Apparently, all slot machines have a sign on them that reads “malfunction voids all pays and plays.”
Now Here’s a Case That Ended Well
One casino actually did pay a winner the amount displayed and then went after the slot machine manufacturer for the difference. In 2014, a Canadian woman won $100,000 at the Lake City Casino in British Columbia on Dragon Fever slots. The maximum payout was supposed to be $1,000.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Lottery Corporation explained, “We couldn’t confirm what the jackpot amount was supposed to be. Therefore, accordingly, we determined the appropriate course of action was to pay that erroneously displayed prize amount to the player. There was no evidence the woman influenced the jackpot or otherwise exploited the machines.”
Maybe it’s Worth Gambling in Canada
Consequently, the B.C. Lottery Corporation paid the woman the full $100,000 and went after Konami, the makers of the slot machine, for the difference. The casino also went ahead and removed 189 similar machines from the casinos to inspect them to make sure the same incident wouldn’t occur.
A Little Bit of History
It’s believed that a major turning point in how slot machines are played came about because of the human need to urinate. After playing at a slot machine for a period of time, players didn’t want to leave a machine to use the restroom for fear of losing their impending jackpot to another player. So what did they do? Well, there were clever players that began stealing chairs from nearby table games and leaned them against the slots to save their spot.
Changing the Game Forever
It didn’t take long for slot machine players to use chairs to sit and play, thus changing the culture of slot machine games forever. Today’s slot machine chairs are plush and ergonomic, and many feature sophisticated sound systems and vibration functions to keep players engaged and entertained.
A Fun Fact
Today, slot machines account for as much as 85% of a casino’s revenue. One of the biggest methods of measuring a machine’s profitability is known as “Time on Device”. It shows the average time a gambler spends on a given slot machine.
Sometimes Playing the Slots is a Winning Choice
Source: CBS Boston – CBS Local
Linda and Walter Misco, an elderly couple from Chester, New Hampshire, hit big at a casino. They won a $2.4 million jackpot from the legendary Lion’s Share slot machine at MGM Grand in Vegas in August of 2014. This specific jackpot had not been won in 20 years. Congrats to sweet, and now rich, couple.
Slot Machine World Record #1
Source: Casino Junket Club
Slot machines are a big favorite in most casinos. In April 2013, The Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, achieved the world record for Largest Slot Machine Tournament. It’s also one of the largest casinos in the US. There were approximately 1,100 slot machines for more than 5,000 participants. The top 200 players won a combined jackpot of $100,000 and the winner of the tournament won $50,000 in cash.
Slot Machine World Record #2
The same casino, the Mohegan Sun Casino, broke the record for most slot machines running the same game simultaneously. And it even happened the same day in April 2013. Over 1,600 slot machines ran the same game, Hot Shot, at the same time. Mohegan Sun hosts three casinos, Casino of the Earth, Casino of the Sky and Casino of the Wind, and nearly 6,000 slot machines.
Slot Machine World Record #3
Largest slot machine win. The largest slot machine payout was $39,713,982 won by a 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles. She put in $100 in the Megabucks slot machine at the Excalibur Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas. So it looks like you can win big at slot machines.
A Few Freebies for Veronica
We already know that the casino workers gave Veronica a check for a little over eighty dollars, but they also offered some additional bonuses to try and compensate her for the whole experience. Veronica was provided with a full weekend stay in one of the casino’s guest suites at no charge and was given free meals during her visit as well. Those definitely aren’t bad freebies, but they seem pretty small compared to the jackpot she thought she’d won.
Was Veronica happy with how the casino handled it? Read on to see…
Veronica Wasn’t Happy At All
The simple truth of the matter is that a couple of nights in a hotel and some free food can’t replace $8.5 million. Veronica believed that she’d rightfully won that cash and that the casino had cheated her out of it.
In fact, she almost felt offended at the idea of the hotel offering her a weekend stay in one of its rooms. After all, why would she want to return to a place where she’d been forced to experience something so horrible?
A Call to Arms
So how did Veronica respond to the whole thing? Well, since the fake jackpot incident occurred, she’s been looking for advice to see how best to approach the situation and figure out what to do next. In her mind, she’s owed money, and she wanted to see if other people agreed. She has spoken to legal experts and also shared the story on social media to see what other people thought of it all.
Has Veronica made any progress? Read on to find out…
Raising Awareness to Save Others
One of the critical reasons why Veronica decided to share her story on social media and let other people know what happened to her is to raise awareness about the issue.
She believes that players need to be aware of how casinos function and that they reserve the right to cancel big winnings. Naturally, having lived through such a bad experience, she doesn’t want anybody else to have to feel the same disappointment in the future.
If you like an enjoyable evening at the casino, you might want to know the trade secrets of casinos.
From the moment you sit down at a slot and enter your player card and cash, every move you make is automatically tracked by the casino. Slot machines are now networked and have sophisticated hardware and software to track everything you do. This information is analyzed and delivered to the casino marketing department so they can work out the best possible way to market their casino and slots to you so that you keep coming back and play more.
It gets a bit sneakier…
Kind of Scary
Doesn’t sound so fun huh? Well, it could get worse. Casino marketing departments will likely start using security technology to monitor and track your play. Facial recognition programs will associate you with a player’s card or create a new player account and track everything you do on a video feed.
Slots are Designed to Make You Happy
There are teams of psychologists and researchers that advise what sounds, colors, movements, and graphics to use in casino games to make the player feel as happy as possible. This isn’t so good for players that can get addicted to gambling. So be careful.
Believe it or not, many casinos pump oxygen into their casinos if you’re wondering why it’s because it gives long-term gamblers a reason to stay longer. If they feel sleepy after hours of playing, they’re likely to go home. But if they’re breathing extra oxygen, then they’ll feel more refreshed and awake and will want to play longer.
What about drinks…?
On the House
If you’ve been to a casino, you probably noticed that the booze is free. And sometimes even the food. This is a classic trick to keep you around. If you’re tipsy and happily fed, why leave right?
In the Carpets
Another sneaky little trick is in the psychedelic carpets of pretty much all casinos. Ever noticed how ugly all the carpets are? As you can guess by now, it’s for a reason. The distractingly ugly carpets keep you awake, and yes, you guessed it, continuing to gamble.
Setting the Mood
Casinos also set the mood for you to stick around. The lights are never dim, there are no clocks, and the music is on a continuous hypnotic loop. The goal is apparent: to keep you unaware of how long you’ve been in the casino.
One last thought about Veronica’s story…
The House Always Wins
We’ve all heard this line. In some games, the House is way more likely to win than in others. Games such as Three-Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, and Double Exposure Blackjack may have bigger payouts in the end, but they also have much bigger losses for the players. Something to remember when you feel like hitting the cards table at the casino.
The House is Always Watching
If you’re in a casino, you’re being watched. Casinos generally use surveillance to look out for criminals who prey on tourists and the cheaters. But they also monitor all the players. And, yes, they can actually zoom in on your cards if they wanted to. And if you’re on a roll and winning big, you can bet that they’re watching you even more.
Some Pop Culture Fun
If you like both casinos and movies, then you need to see these movies. And if you already have, then you can go and watch them again. The following is a list of must-see casino movies:
Casino (1995), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Rounders (1998), Casino Royale (2006), and The Gambler (2014).
Fun Fact About the Best Casino Movie Ever
“Casino” is by far the best movie based on a casino. Robert De Niro’s character is based on the real-life figure of Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, a man who ran four casinos for the Mafia. The movie was directed by Martin Scorsese, and it was based on a book by Nicholas Pileggi. Casino reveals the dark side of Las Vegas.
The Quest for Justice Continues
For now, Veronica’s story is still being shared, and she’s still seeking advice on what steps to take. It remains to be seen if she’ll ever get the justice she deserves, and it also remains to be seen if casinos take action to raise awareness about the rules and rights of individual players. The whole story is quite a scary one; imagine thinking you’d become a millionaire and then seeing it all go up in smoke!