If you’ve ever watched a fellow gambler score a major jackpot, congratulations. You’ve witnessed every casino enthusiast’s crowning achievement. The possibility of turning a few bucks into a six-, seven-, or even eight-figure payday has lured countless millions of players to Las Vegas for seven decades and counting.
Jackpot hunters tend to frequent the machines, where slots and video poker put huge progressive jackpots up for grabs. Normally, the casinos pay out the overwhelming majority of these jackpots with no hesitation. But every so often, one basic mistake on the player’s part gives the house legitimate cause to withhold payment altogether.
1 – The Player Hasn’t Reached the Legal Gambling Age Under Local Law
Russell “Rusty” Erickson and his family will never forget the scene which played out at Caesars Palace back on August 5th, 1987.
At age 19, Erickson’s son Kirk was technically an adult, free to vote and go to war on his country’s behalf. Nonetheless, he was two years short of Nevada’s longstanding gambling age limit of 21.
Hoping to give his son a way to pass the time while himself and wife Beth toured the casino, Rusty handed Kirk $50 in $1 gaming tokens. Kirk took the meager bankroll to the first slot machine he saw, the $3 per spin “Million Dollar Baby” game.
Less than an hour later, having hovered around the breakeven point thus far, Kirk watched the screen light up with a screen directing him to call the floor. Lo and behold, his last spin lined up the reels just right to trigger the topline jackpot of $1,061,811.
After casino management ascertained Kirk’s underage status, he and Rusty were told flatly that Caesars Palace would not pay a single penny.
In fact, they told Rusty that pressing his point further would result in arrest on charges of attempting to fraudulently claim a jackpot.
In a 1988 interview with People magazine, Rusty recounted the emotional roller coaster his family endured that day:
“We eyed that million dollars like kids at a carnival. Things haven’t been the same since.”
Rusty soon found himself in a legal quagmire, forcing hearings in front of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and suing Caesars Palace in federal court.
As he told People, the Ericksons are convinced that Sin City casinos invite teenagers to gamble, secure in the knowledge that while the house can win, the underage player can’t.
“Some of the casinos are running a racket. It seems they let minors play until they hit a big jackpot. Then they jump in and refuse to pay. They keep your losings as well as your winnings.”
Erickson also claimed that the casino didn’t make its age policies clear before Kirk hit the slot parlor. Caesars stuck to its guns, however, and eventually prevailed in front of both the NGCB and federal judges.
In its concluding report denying the Ericksons relief, the NGCB made it clear that age limits are ironclad while gambling in Las Vegas:
“It would be an unreasonable, if not absurd, result to construe the statute to prohibit a person under 21 years of age . . . from placing wagers on other games and slot machines, but not to prohibit this same person from collecting winnings.”
2 – The Player Lacks Sufficient Identification Even When They’re of Legal Age
Under the United States tax code, any gambler who pockets a jackpot of $1,200 or more must be given a W-2G form to fill out before collecting their cash.
This form is then duplicated by the casino, with one copy sent to the IRS and another given to the winner for recordkeeping purposes. Eventually, you’ll need to incorporate the W-2G form into your annual income taxes to reflect gambling-derived revenue.
The only thing is, you can’t get the W-2G or the money unless you present a valid photo identification. Furthermore, without a valid social security number on hand, the casino is required to withhold 28% of your jackpot before forwarding the funds to the IRS.
Thus, even if you’re 21 or over, you can’t collect your jackpot without a driver’s license or state ID card. And unless you know your social by heart, that jackpot will be diminished by nearly one-third right off the bat.
Plenty of folks have hit for a big jackpot, only to find that they forgot their ID at home or let it lapse and expire. Of course, they still have the chance to procure their ID and make things right, but not everybody does.
Whether they have pending arrest warrants and don’t want to visit the DMV, or their immigration status is unsettled, many players are forced to abandon jackpots because they lack ID.
3 – The Player Is Suspected of Cheating by Tampering With the Machine
If you’ve never heard the story of John Kane and his quite literally unbelievable video poker hot streak, do yourself a favor and look the story up, it is quite unbelievable!
Essentially, Kane would play games like Deuces Wild and Double Double Bonus for the lowest possible stakes of $0.01 per hand. After grinding until a premium hand like five deuces or four aces with a kicker appeared, Kane simply toggled through his top-secret sequence.
Just like that, the game “reset” itself to show Kane playing for $0.50 per hand, meaning his original $500 score was now worth $10,000.
Kane partnered up with a fellow VP addict and hit the town, beating several Off-Strip and Downtown casinos out of significant sums. Eventually, with their winnings nearing the million-dollar mark, the tenuous house of cards began to crumble.
Alarmed casino managers began tracking their VP jackpot payouts more closely, identifying Kane as a serial winner. The NGCB was soon on the case, confiscating one of Kane’s nightly hauls and banning him from gambling locally.
In the end, the team wound up avoiding prosecution when the government’s “computer hacking” charge was found lacking.
But while Kane didn’t technically tamper with the machine, his knowing exploitation of a computer glitch was enough to force him to surrender all of that sweet jackpot dough.
4 – The Player Is Subject to a Preexisting Property Ban Based on Prior Behavior
This one is simple and straightforward. If you’ve previously been banned from a casino, that casino has every right to refuse future jackpot payments.
Oddly enough, Bean was permitted to play weekly over that long stretch, even earning an enhanced players club card for her regular sessions. The casino was happy to let her lose or tread water, but once she hit a decent winner, they used her old ban to deny payment.
5 – The Player Has Put Themselves on the Problem Gambling “Self-Exclusion” List
You can be banned by the casino, but you can also ban yourself from the casino too. In a policy known as “self-exclusion,” players who suffer from compulsive gambling issues can add their name to a list of personas non grata.
From there, they are effectively banned from the premises until voluntarily removing themselves from self-exclusion.
Naturally though, gambling addicts often can’t help but come back for one last run. And when they win big while still self-excluded, the casino has no choice but to refuse payment.
Don’t take my word for it though, just ask the slot fanatic in Canada who watched her $12,000 payday go up in self-exclusion smoke.
6 – The Player’s Outstanding Debts Have Been Flagged by the Gambling Intercept Payment (GIP) System
If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard a word about the Gambling Intercept Payment (GIP) System.
But this valuable government resource is used to block casino jackpots every day nationwide. Under the GIP screening process, any jackpot of $1,200 or more must first have the winner’s name run through a state database.
The jackpot is then deducted by the winner’s total debt, and they get to keep anything left over.
7 – The Player Chose to Gamble Through a Shady and Unregulated Offshore Online Casino
On a final note, many online gamblers have horror stories about big wins which were never paid. When dealing with an offshore online betting site, one which lacks licensing and regulation, you are basically at the operator’s mercy.
For that reason, it’s always best to stick with our favorite real money online casinos, where winners never have to wonder if their jackpot is worthless.
As a casino gambler, it’s your responsibility to comply with the house’s rules and regulations. By neglecting to do so, and making any of the seven mistakes listed above, you put yourself at grave risk of enduring every player’s worst-case scenario.
Winning a big jackpot is one of those truly unique experiences in life, one which many regulars never get the opportunity to savor. So, watching it all wash away because you don’t have ID, or forgot to remove yourself from self-exclusion, is an awful fate to avoid at all costs.