For gamblers who love spinning the slots, no machine holds a greater allure than Megabucks.
A product of casino game manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT), the Megabucks slot was introduced back in 1986. The game itself is relatively simple when compared to modern video slots, as Megabucks offers just three reels and a single payline to work with.
But that payline is sweeter than any other slot in the world, thanks to a massive progressive jackpot of $10 million. As the world’s first wide area progressive slot network, Megabucks machines all over Nevada are linked together to create the enormous eight-figure jackpot.
And at $3 per spin, players grinding Megabucks machines in Lake Tahoe, Reno, and Las Vegas casinos, and just overall across the Silver State can easily cause the jackpot to build into the $20 to $40 million range.
The odds of landing just one “Megabucks Eagle” symbol needed to claim that ridiculous reward stand at 1 in 368. Thus, finding three of the key symbols lined up perfectly on the reels requires beating odds of 1 in 49,836,032 or (1/368)3.
With such astronomical odds against the player, years can go by without anybody winning the Megabucks jackpot.
To get an idea of how unlikely a Megabucks jackpot payout really is, and how lucrative they can be for the lucky winners, checkout the slot’s performance over the last decade:
Megabucks Jackpot History (2010 – 2019)
|04/14/19||Sunset Station Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$13,154,723.42|
|05/05/18||Paris Hotel and Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$11,183,715.84|
|09/16/17||Fiesta Henderson||Las Vegas, Nevada||$10,192,522.80|
|08/08/17||Fremont Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$11,809,407.24|
|03/22/16||Gold Dust West||Elko, Nevada||$12,515,708.83|
|03/14/15||Westgate Hotel and Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$10,744,293.40|
|11/30/14||Rampart Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$14,282,544.21|
|12/05/13||MGM Grand Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$10,337,637.92|
|11/04/13||MGM Grand Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$12,463,147.70|
|04/10/13||Bonanza Casino||Reno, Nevada||$11,798,514.65|
|12/14/12||M Resort||Las Vegas, Nevada||$17,329,817.67|
|06/15/11||Grand Sierra Resort||Reno, Nevada||$10,379,294.92|
|04/22/11||Aria Hotel and Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$10,636,897.78|
|01/21/11||Aria Hotel and Casino||Las Vegas, Nevada||$12,769,933.87|
|02/21/10||Reno Airport||Reno, Nevada||$10,422,754.08|
Yep, you read that right. Over the course of nearly 10 years, only 14 Megabucks jackpots have ever been hit, which is why the story of Elmer Sherwin is so wildly unbelievable…
At the age of 76, the retired Sherwin landed a $4.6 million jackpot from Megabucks back in 1989. (The $10 million seed amount started in 2005.) That alone made Sherwin one of the gambling industry’s rarities, a slot player who overcame the odds to win what was the largest jackpot in Las Vegas history at the time.
But 16 years later, Sherwin etched his name into the pantheon of gambling gods by winning a second Megabucks jackpot, this time for a whopping $21.1 million. Let’s take a look at the true Las Vegas legend of Elmer Sherwin’s double dip on the Megabucks machine.
Sherwin Wins Seven Figures on the Mirage’s Opening Day
The day was November 22, 1989 and Las Vegas locals were celebrating the grand opening of the Mirage, the city’s latest casino built along the Strip.
One of those locals was Elmer Sherwin, who visited the glittering new venue along with his ex-wife Florence. At the time, Megabucks machines offered a progressive jackpot that seeded at $1 million and climbed from there, so Sherwin and his fellow slot spinners were chasing a $4.6 million grand prize.
After about 90 minutes of play, during which Sherwin spent $80 of his own money before borrowing $20 more from Florence, the reels whirled and clicked into place just perfectly. With three of the coveted “Megabucks Eagle” symbols lined up along the payline, Sherwin turned his $3 wager into a $4,653,697.80 score.
According to the myth, IGT programs its Megabucks machines to pay out at a higher rate when a casino first opens, hoping to hook players into coming back for more.
But Boris Hallerbach—who works as a product manager for MegaJackpots, a division of IGT—told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2009, that’s just not how random number generators (RNGs) really work:
“Unfortunately, no. I hate to be the spoiler. There is no correlation between Megabucks hitting and the opening of a casino.”
Indeed, as the aforementioned report makes clear, none of the dozen casinos to open their doors since Sherwin’s big win have produced a Megabucks jackpot on opening day.
As a retiree, and a single one to boot, Sherwin had all the time and money he’d ever need to travel the world. But as he told local media outlets at the time, Sherwin’s experience serving in World War II had already taken him abroad, so he was content to stick around Sin City to try for a seemingly impossible feat—a second jackpot spin on Megabucks.
It would take him 16 years, but Sherwin would do just that in 2005, during a trip to the Cannery Casino and Hotel.
Lightning Strikes Twice for a Las Vegas Legend
At 92 years young, Sherwin found himself spinning away on a Megabucks machine inside the off-Strip casino known as Cannery.
He was chasing his “white whale” of sorts, hoping to become the first ever two-time Megabucks winner. But while Captain Ahab infamously went down with the ship chasing his own Moby Dick, Sherwin managed to capture one of the most elusive beasts in casino gambling history.
Once again, the reels revolved around and around, before settling in an arrangement instantly familiar to Sherwin—three “Megabucks Eagle” symbols in a row. Just like that, the veteran and proud patriarch laid claim to a staggering jackpot payout of $21,147,947.
In a press release issued by IGT, Sherwin celebrated his crowning achievement after becoming the undisputed king of Megabucks slot jackpots:
“I’m glad I finally hit; I’ve been trying to do it again. I’m gonna try for a third win on Megabucks, but I may try the Wheel of Fortune slot, too.”
When the news broke, Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis told local media outlets that the chances of a repeat win on Megabucks bordered on the immeasurable:
“It’s absurd. The odds of winning are on the order of billions if not trillions to one. It’s crazy.”
I’m no math whiz by any means, but when you multiply the 1 in 49,836,032 odds on hitting one Megabucks jackpot by 49,836,032, the answer basically broke my calculator—1 in 2,483,630,085,505,024.
That’s a probability of 1 in 2.4 quadrillion, odds which are simply unfathomable to most people. After pocketing another life-changing jackpot, Sherwin paid it forward by making contributions to charities assisting New Orleans after the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Sherwin continued playing slot machines in Las Vegas for the next two years, before passing away at the age of 94.
Millions of players will spin the Megabucks slot machine regularly for their entire lives without ever landing the topline jackpot. Only 22 jackpots have been awarded since the $10 million seed began in 2005.
With that in mind, trying to wrap your mind around Sherwin’s second jackpot score is essentially impossible. Las Vegas is a city built on legends, but none can compare with the epic Megabucks run enjoyed by the singularly unique Elmer Sherwin.