We’ve all seen the small notice on the slot machine that says something like, “Machine malfunction voids all pays and plays.” Have you ever really thought about what you would do if it happened to you?
Stephen Wilkinson was playing his favorite slot machine at the Philadelphia Park casino in Pennsylvania when he hit the jackpot for $102,000. The machine lit up, the jackpot music started to play, and on the screen it congratulated him on his win of $102,000. People quickly gathered around and began congratulating him, in fact the women beside him was so excited she phoned her husband to tell him the news. Well, Stephen was in for a big surprise but it wasn’t $102,000.
After several minutes of casino employees huddled in deep discussion, they made their way over to Stephen to congratulate him on his win. Wrong! They made their way over to let him know that there was a machine malfunction, and he did not hit the jackpot. However, they would compensate him for the malfunction by providing him with two free tickets to their buffet. No, I’m not making that part up. They tried to reconcile the situation by giving him two free buffet tickets. Unless there was gold and diamonds on the buffet, that doesn’t seem like just compensation to me.
What do you think? Do you think the casino should have to pay the money, or are they not liable because they have the warning on the machine? What about if it happened to you, how do you think you would respond? What would you do?
Let’s take a look at similar situation that occurred, you may have a different reaction. This actually happened to a fellow gambler that I know and it happened on a video poker machine instead of a slot machine, but video poker machines are classified as “slots” and have the same malfunction warning on each machine. This story has a slightly different twist to it, but ironically it was for about the same amount of money.
John was in the casino when he noticed a single progressive video poker machine. A single progressive simply means that the machine is not hooked up to any other machines, the jackpot rises as someone plays that machine only. Many video poker single progressives have a large display above the machine that lets the customer know how high the jackpot is. John noticed a $1 denomination ($5 for max play) video poker machine where the display read that the jackpot was $104,000 for a royal flush. If you don’t play video poker, just know that a normal payout for a royal on a $1 machine is $4,000. The progressives are reset at $4,000 and move up as the game is played.
John knew something wasn’t right. It’s almost mathematically impossible for a $1 video poker progressive machine to get over $100,000 without a royal flush being hit. If it got up to $20,000 it would be big news and you wouldn’t be able to play the machine because it would be packed with people. John decided to play and see what happened. The entire time he played the jackpot was still listed as $104,000 and was increasing as he played. After about an hour, sure enough John hit a royal flush.
What do you think happened?
- A) The casino paid him the $104,000 that was advertised on the machine.
- B) They paid him nothing because there was a machine malfunction.
- C) They paid him the reset jackpot value of $4,000.
- D) They paid him some other amount.
If you guessed option C you would be correct. The casino explained to John that the progressive counter display had malfunctioned and they would not pay him the $104,000. John didn’t fight it too much because he knew there was nothing he could do. I think he was most upset at the fact that they paid him the minimum of $4,000, which is the reset amount, instead of at least compensating him something extra since it was a progressive. They claimed that the malfunction voided everything, and basically they were saying he’s lucky to be getting the $4,000.
What is your feeling on this situation? Is it different from the first story? Does it matter that John knew something was amiss when he sat down at the machine? I would love to hear your thoughts, and any similar situations that may have happened to you or someone you know.