When Mines Games Bonus Casinos Refuse to Payout Your Winnings
It’s often been said that casinos want you to win. At some level, that sounds like an oxymoron because why would casinos, who make money from your betting, want to turn around and pay you that money back? For one reason, the odds are always stacked against you. Even when they’re paying you money, the casinos are still keeping a lot of it.
Secondly, when there’s a big winner, it generates excitement. Pictures get taken. Stories get told. Ads get printed. Another round of gamblers want to visit the casino with renewed dreams of coming home with a lot of money.
Still, even though casinos want to pay you, there are times when they either can’t or don’t pay. Sometimes, there are perfectly good reasons why casinos refuse to pay out on slot machine wins, but there have been a (thankfully small) number of cases in which people thought they earned big only to find out they didn’t.
Good Reasons Why Casinos Don’t Pay
Even if you were to win a significant amount of money at the casino, there are a few very good reasons why the casino might not hand over your winnings and both would be your fault (that’s why they’re good reasons).
The first is if you forget your ID. The casino has to run an ID check on you (for a number of reasons, not the least of which is money laundering) and if you don’t have a valid ID, they can’t run the check. Therefore, you don’t get paid. When this happens, the casino will write you an unclaimed jackpot slip and you usually have 90 days to claim your winnings.
The Gambling Intercept Payment System
The second reason the casino might not pay is if your name comes up in the Gambling Intercept Payment (GIP) System. The GIP System is a database of people who owe child support, have monetary judgements against them, etc. If you owe money, the state will get your winnings and use it to pay what you owe. It’s kind of a bummer, but ultimately understandable.
The Machines Can Malfunction
There’s a third reason that casinos might not pay and it’s anything but a good reason for them to do so. Sometimes, a slot machine will malfunction and inform someone they won hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) when in fact they won a few dollars or none at all.
Sadly, there are warnings on the machines themselves and the legal system backs this up. If the machine malfunctions, the casino does not have to pay the winnings. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it can feel like the casinos are “stealing” a lot of money when really, the law is on the their side.
It doesn’t help the situation that the casinos are responsible for the operation of the slot machines, and they’re also the beneficiary when they break. I’ll talk about what to do when this happens in a moment, but spoiler alert—you won’t like it very much.
The Case of Katrina Bookman
Just to show the types of error that a casino can make for which they won’t pay, we’ll start with the case of Katrina Bookman. According to CNN, Ms. Bookman was playing at the Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York, when she apparently won almost $43 million on a slot machine.
Her winning is verified by a selfie she took next to a machine which is shown to be printing a cash ticket in the amount of $42,949,672.76. However, when she tried to cash in on her winnings, she was instead offered a complimentary steak dinner and $2.25. Of course, $2.25 is slightly less than $43 million.
The casino refused to pay because they claim the Sphinx Slot Machine at which Bookman played malfunctioned. This claim was verified by the New York State Gaming Commission, which basically entitles Bookman to absolutely nothing—the casino didn’t even have to offer the steak or the pocket change.
This incident feels grossly unfair, especially as Bookman’s lawyer, Alan Ripka questions a system in which the casino both operates and maintains the slot machines and gets to say when they are broken. He is trying to argue for either the casino’s negligence contributing to the malfunction (in which case Bookman should receive the money) or an outright conspiracy to prevent payment.
Given the case law against him, there seems little chance Ripka will win the settlement he and Bookman desire.
The Case of Veronica Castillo
Fox News tells a similar tale. This time, a woman from Oregon named Veronica Castillo went to the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Washington. While playing slots with her mother, Castillo said that a slot machine said that she was the winner of $8 million. In response, workers at the casino allegedly shut off the machine and offered her $80, less than her deposit of $100.
As in the case of Bookman, the casino claimed that the $8 million “prize” was due to a malfunction and that the maximum payout of $20,000 is posted on the machine. Fox News legal analyst Bob Massi has joined Castillo in voicing his concern over this incident, asking that someone needs to be held accountable for such a grievous error.
Castillo goes farther claiming that the casino’s policy is “deceiving…[it] might even be fraudulent.” Like Bookman, Castillo has explored legal options, though the fact that the error was attributed to slot machine error means that Castillo is likely to collect no damages including getting her $20 back. However, in her case, there are reports Castillo was offered a smaller sum around $30,000.
This is still less than her original winnings, but more than the casino is likely to pay.
Your Options If It Happens to You
The truly unfortunate part of this is that, when a casino decides not to pay, there is not a whole lot you can do about it. I stand by my earlier claim that casinos don’t mind to pay winners, but that doesn’t mean they want to pay them big money. Also, casinos know the law. If they’re not paying, more than likely, the law is on their side.
Therefore, if you find yourself holding a cash ticket or a selfie that says you are owed a lot of money and the casino says no, don’t expect much to happen. Yes, you can cause a scene. Yes, you can retain council. However, the casinos will have already laid down a good defense by posting notices of when they do and don’t pay.
Even worse, in the world of software, bugs happen. As long as the bugs didn’t happen through negligence, it will be hard for a lawyer to win a case for damages.
Still, I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one. Please seek professional advice if this ever happens to you. However, I will suggest that you keep your head when it happens, but record as much as you can. Fortunately, you have a cell phone you can use to photo or video record your winning ticket, the screen, etc.
Next, strongly consider taking any offer the casino gives you. It’s going to be rough if you end up with a steak instead of $8 million. Also, accepting anything could be seen as you entering into a contract with the casino to receive meat (or whatever) instead of money. Still, the casino has nothing to offer you. You might try to negotiate, but unless case law changes, you have no power.
It’s hard writing on this subject because while I would be silly to argue that casinos are paragons of virtue and generous giving, they’re generally pretty fair. In areas where there are several casinos (and they tend to bunch up), each one wants to do right by their customers or those casinos will watch their customers go elsewhere.
Still, casinos are businesses that are interested in earning and making money. Like all businesses, a casino can’t continue to operate if it just hands out money all willy-nilly. That’s why they know the law, will follow the law, and not pay out millions of dollars when they do not have to. This, sadly, is the cold, hard truth of business.
Ultimately, this type of thing happens very rarely. The amount of control and testing that goes into slot machine software virtually ensures this type of major malfunction is going to happen very infrequently. If it happens on a smaller scale is another matter, but it’s probably more likely a casino pays out a smaller mistake just to avoid the bad PR.
If you find yourself on the losing end of a casino mistake, stay calm and try to work with the casino. Just remember, they hold all of the chips (pun intended) and your best bet is to get something out of the deal. Keeping level-headed and asking for reasonable amounts is your best way to do that.