Costly Errors: Slot Machines Across the USA Are Breaking Down, and Nobody Knows Exactly Why

Author Thomas Wolf
February 25, 2020 3 min read

Since the 14th of February, physical casinos in three different American states have reported major malfunctions with their slot machine games.

Venues in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts have been affected, with over 300 confirmed cases of glitches and failures—or even complete shutdowns mid-game.

The first incident occurred at Jena Choctaw Pines Casino near Alexandria, Louisiana, on the 14th of February. According to local reports, the slots’ computer system was “compromised,” leading managers to shut down over 300 terminals.

Players were unable to claim winnings or log reward points—if they could play the game at all.

“I would love to be able to say, ‘Yes, this is exactly what happened’ because we would know exactly what to do to go and fix it,” said a Choctaw Pines spokesman, as engineers worked over the weekend to fix the problem.

The second case happened on the 21st of February at Encore Boston Harbor Casino in Everett near Boston in Massachusetts. “A handful” of customers’ worth of slots winnings on a busy Friday night had to be paid out by hand after an unexplained “computer issue.”

Local reports seem to suggest the problem was fixed quickly, but two mass outages in one week are still concerning.

$8.5 Million Down

However, the biggest case—and one that picked up national news media attention—was that of Maribel Sanchez, a woman from Newcastle, Oklahoma.

Sanchez was betting $1.25 a time on a Liberty 7s Jackpot machine in the Newcastle Casino when she scooped an $8,469,498.95 jackpot prize. However, just seconds later, the machine crashed and flashed up a blue screen error message.

In a possibly lucky turn of events, the screen still displayed her multi-million win, and she quickly snapped a photo of it for evidence.

It seems that wasn’t enough for the Casino, though, which denied her win. Sanchez already contacted a local lawyer, Bill Zudhi, who promised to “aggressively pursue her rights.”

Legal Precedents

Almost all casino slots in the US have a “malfunction voids all pays” sticker on them, meaning similar court cases in the past have often ended in favor of casinos.

For example, back in 2015, a 90-year-old grandmother from Antioch, Iowa, was denied the $41 million jackpot she’d seen appear on a slot that had no bonus round and was only supposed to give out a maximum of $10,000.

However, in the Newcastle case, it’s not clear whether the machine awarded an incorrect jackpot or just shut down or glitched out before it could finalize awarding a legitimate prize.

Fine distinctions such as this can make all the difference in multi-million-dollar lawsuits, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out in court.

Some cases in the past have seen casino patrons receive a favorable outcome.

For example, in 2014, a woman playing a Dragon Fever slot machine at Lake City Casino in British Colombia, Canada, was awarded an error jackpot of $99,000 on a machine with a $9,999 maximum win—and the casino paid out.

In that case, the casino stated they couldn’t confirm what the original jackpot prize was supposed to be and therefore was left with no choice but to honor the win.

This time, though, the stakes are much higher, which may make a difference in the casino’s willingness to pay up.

We’ll keep you updated with the latest on this story as it unfolds.

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

396 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.
broken slot machines all over the USA