Pauline McKee had hit the jackpot-that-wasn’t when playing a Miss Kitty slots game. ‘The reels have rolled your way!’ the screen on the slots game told her. ‘Bonus Award – $41797550.16.’ The casino staff knew that the game had a jackpot cap of $10,000, and noted that the symbols on the reels had only lined up to give a win of $1.85, so they gave McKee a $10 card to play with as they investigated the situation. Eventually the casino explained to McKee that the $41.7 million bonus award statement had in fact been a computer error, and that she hadn’t won a jackpot of any size.
Rather than accepting the casino’s explanation, McKee decided to sue the house. The casino had already asked the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to get involved and it had done so by sending the slot machine away for laboratory analysis. Tests indicated what most people were already thinking – that the machine had suffered from a technical glitch and had displayed the jackpot message in error – but that didn’t stop McKee from pursuing her claim all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.
The court ruled on the case last Friday, stating that the terms and conditions governing the game were accessible throughout and that the fact that McKee had not read them did not negate them in any way. It went on to conclude that: ‘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.’
Had McKee, who is now 90, taken note of the sign on the Miss Kitty slots machine that said, ‘Malfunction voids all pays and plays’, she might have saved herself a lengthy legal battle. As it is, this case serves as a useful reminder to casino players everywhere that game rules apply whether or not one takes the time the read them. It therefore makes sense for players to familiarise themselves with the broad terms and conditions of a game so that they know exactly where they stand should a technical glitch occur at any point during play.