Iowa Casino beats 90-year-old Grandma in $41m Slots Jackpot Case

They say the house always wins, and sometimes this is even true when you think you’ve won. Pauline McKee found this out the hard way after thinking that she’d won a $41,797,550 slots jackpot at Iowa’s Isle Hotel Casino.

In 2011, McKee, now a 90-year-old grandmother, and her daughter excitedly cheered when the reels flashed the gaudy jackpot total. But in a cruel twist of fate, Iowa state gaming officials determined that the win was the result of a machine glitch. They also explained that the win on Miss Kitty was actually only worth $1.85.

McKee wasn’t satisfied with the machine-glitch explanation, prompting her to launch a lawsuit over the matter. She finally got to have her case presented in front of a seven-member court panel, but all seven members ruled against her. Justice Edward Mansfield wrote the following for the seven-member panel, which basically summed up the ruling:

“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.”

Mansfield added that Miss Kitty’s maximum reward was $10,000, with no concessions for bonus payouts. Furthermore, the rules/payouts were clearly stated on the help screen, and it doesn’t matter if McKee didn’t read them before playing.

Stacey Cormican, one of Isle Casino’s attorneys, explained that if the ruling had gone in the grandmother’s favor, then the casino would have to declare bankruptcy. After all, the $41.8 million slots prize amounted to about half of Isle’s gross revenue from last year.

Cormican added, “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 absolutely chaos.”

Stories like McKee’s are pretty rare since slot machines don’t usually experience such notable glitches. But in her case, the unthinkable did happen when she was playing at Isle while she and her daughter were in Waterloo, Iowa for a family reunion. When McKee saw the $41.8m payout flash on the screen, she called her daughter over, and they both flagged down a casino attendant.

Casino officials comped McKee and her family members’ rooms while they investigated, which eventually drew the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The state agents then sent the game’s hardware to be analyzed in a lab, where they determined that the big jackpot was the result of a glitch.