When an 87-year-old Illinois grandmother bet a quarter in an Iowa slot machine in 2011, she thought she'd hit it big. The screen said: "The reels have rolled your way! Bonus Award - $41797550.16." Pauline McKee and her daughter summoned casino employees to collect what they thought was a $41.8 million jackpot. But state officials later concluded that the award was a computer glitch and that the Isle Hotel Casino in Waterloo, Iowa, didn't have to pay. And the Iowa Supreme Court ruled yesterday that McKee didn't hit any jackpot—no matter what the screen told her. Her good fortune was actually worth only $1.85 based on how the symbols aligned on the Miss Kitty game, the court said.
Game rules said the maximum award was $10,000 and allowed for no bonus awards, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote for the unanimous seven-member court. The rules and pay table, which were available on a touch screen, amount to a contract between the casino and the player, and it doesn't matter that McKee didn't read them, he added. "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," Mansfield wrote in a ruling that dismissed a lawsuit filed by McKee. (Read more casino stories.)