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Casino Says $43M Jackpot Was a Glitch, Offers Winner a Free Steak Dinner Instead

katrina bookman
Alan Ripkin

There's no feeling quite like winning huge at a casino. There's also no feeling quite like thinking you've won huge, only to learn from the casino that your giant jackpot was actually caused by a glitch, and that -- hahaha -- your real payout is less than five bucks. Though, if you're curious what that level of disappointment does to your head, you could just ask Katrina Bookman, a New York woman who encountered that exact scenario, and is currently suing to get the millions she believes she won outright.

Last August while gambling at Resorts World Casino, Bookman thought she won an insane amount of money on the Sphinx slot machine. She claims its lights started flashing and bells were going off -- all signs that she had hit the jackpot. She even snapped a selfie in front of the screen, which was flashing "printing cash ticket $42,949,672.76." Except, according to the casino, the jackpot was a mistake -- a malfunction in the machine -- and she wasn't going home a newly minted multi-millionaire.

Instead, the casino told her she was only entitled to the $2.25 she had left in the machine when it allegedly went haywire and for her troubles, they offered her a steak dinner on the house. She didn't accept either as a consolation. After all, a free steak doesn't do much to cleanse one's palate of such devastating disappointment, and now she's suing the gambling establishment, demanding the nearly $43 million payout. She's also seeking damages from the casino for failing to maintain the game, as well as the company that makes and maintains the particular slot machine. The lawsuit alleges that the incident left Bookman feeling embarrassed, anxious, and depressed.

In response to the lawsuit, the casino says it's sorry for Bookman's troubles, but is doubling down on the malfunction excuse, according to Ars Technica. "Machine malfunctions are rare, and we would like to extend our apologies to Ms. Bookman for any inconvenience this may have caused," the company said in a statement. The New York State Gaming Commission is defending the casino, declaring it was "clearly a display malfunction" and that the max payout for that Sphinx slot machine was programmed for just $6,500 (the machine was fixed and running normally the next day).

This isn't the first time a casino's been taken to court for refusing to pay out a giant slot machine jackpot. In 2015, an Iowa woman thought she had won $42 million on the Miss Kitty machine she was playing on, but the casino insisted it was caused by a glitch. The court sided with the casino, and denied the payout, based on the premise that a glitch is a glitch no matter who it benefits or affects, and should be treated as such. As the judge in the case said at the time, "Consider the other side of the coin. Suppose the symbols had aligned so that [the plaintiff] 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."

Let this be a lesson that table games are always the better option.

h/tBBC News and Courthouse News

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.