Eighty-seven-year-old Pauline McKee had been playing a Miss Kitty slot machine only a few minutes when it told her she was a millionaire. A message on the screen announced: “The reels have rolled your way! Bonus award — $41,797,550.16.”
Yes, $41.8 million.
The Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo told her it was a computer glitch and refused to pay. Now, thanks to the Iowa Supreme Court, the casino doesn’t have to.
“I didn’t think they would give it to me anyway,” McKee, now 90, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “It happens that way.”
In summer 2011, McKee was with family members for a reunion in Waterloo, and several of them wandered over to the nearby Isle Casino. Her daughter was playing a penny slot and asked McKee to sit down and join the game. “I’m not a big gambler,” said McKee, who is from Antioch, Ill. “But I like to play the slot machines.”
She started playing the Miss Kitty slot machine, which advertised a $10,000 top prize, according to Iowa Public Radio. Moments into the game, the lights started flashing and the machine told McKee that she’d won the bonus award — which stumped employees.
McKee was given $10 in credits to play more games while casino staff looked into her jackpot. Eventually, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission got involved, sending the Miss Kitty machine off for analysis. The regulators later ruled there was no “bonus,” and McKee was offered $1.85 based on the symbols in the game.
Yes, one dollar and 85 cents.
It was an issue casinos had been warned about. The game’s manufacturer, Aristocrat Technologies, told them about the false “legacy bonus” and recommended they stop using the machines until the hardware could be fixed, BBC News reported.
In 2012, McKee sued the casino for breach of contract and consumer fraud, arguing that since the casino didn’t fix the game, they should honor the win. The next year, a court sided with the casino. McKee appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
On Friday, the court denied her $41.8 million bonus and awarded her a buck eighty-five.
In the 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. Consider the other side of the coin: Suppose the symbols had aligned so that McKee was entitled to a payout under the rules of the game, but the machine did not inform her of a payout. Would the casino have been obligated to compensate her despite the absence of a notification that she had won? We think so.
“I’m not surprised,” McKee told The Post. “Most of the people I talked to didn’t think the casino would pay me anyway.”
She added that she hasn’t gambled since.