Is It Time to Retire the Megabucks Curse?

Las Vegas is filled with slot machines. But no slot shines brighter than Megabucks.

Launched by IGT in the late 1980s, Megabucks continually features the largest progressive jackpot in Las Vegas and beyond. It has paid out a number of record-breaking prizes.

Millions of people play this game every year for a shot at life-changing money. They essentially look at the Megabucks jackpot like a lottery that they can play over and over.

However, some of these same gamblers might think twice about playing this slot if they knew about the Megabucks curse. This curse has caused winners to suffer car accidents, loss of loved ones, and even death.

The good news, though, is that the Megabucks curse is a hoax. I’m going to explain why after covering more on this famed slot machine.

The Megabucks Jackpot Is Very Alluring


Up until the late 1980s, slots jackpots had always been confined to one machine or a bank of local machines. Megabucks became the first wide-area progressive jackpot, meaning it offers the same prize across multiple casinos.

Each Megabucks game contributes a percentage of its bets towards the jackpot. Wheel of Fortune is the most popular and common of the Megabucks-branded games.

Players must wager at least $1 to play. However, they need to place the $3 max bet to qualify for the progressive jackpot. The Megabucks jackpot starts at $10 million and increases from here. The $10 million starting value provides the motivation to risk $3 per spin for this payout.

Anybody who wins the top prize can take a lumpsum payment worth half the jackpot. Or, they can accept monthly payments for 25 years to get the full value.

What Is the Megabucks Curse?

The Megabucks curse refers to the bad fortune that strikes jackpot winners. As legend goes, those who are lucky enough to win this jackpot aren’t really so lucky in the end.

One tragedy actually happened and has been verified by news outlets. Others are urban legends that claim winners have died under unpleasant circumstances.

You may have heard about the curse of lottery winners. In fact, E! ran a series called THS Investigates: Curse of the Lottery.

The Megabucks curse is essentially the slots version of this subject. This is also fitting when considering that Megabucks has delivered some lottery-sized jackpots.

How Did the Megabucks Curse Originate?

$35m Winner Paralyzed in Car Accident

Cynthia Jay-Brennan is the original inspiration for this curse. She was befallen by tragedy at multiple angles after winning big through Megabucks.

At first, her story seemed like a fairytale. The 37-year-old cocktail waitress was playing Megabucks at the Desert Inn Casino.

She eventually won a $34.9 million jackpot and became the subject of many Vegas-area news stories. At the time, her slots payout was the largest in history.

But just six weeks after collecting the jackpot, Jay-Brennan and her sister were involved in a horrific automobile accident. A drunk driver rear-ended them while they were stopped at a red light.

Jay-Brennan’s sister died shortly after the accident. Cynthia, meanwhile, was left a quadriplegic for the rest of her life.

Clark Morse was the driver. The 58-year-old had already been convicted of drunk driving five times and finally killed somebody on this occasion.

He’d been drinking at two bars the night of the accident. The drunken Morse slammed into Jay-Brennan’s car with such velocity that he caused injuries to multiple people in other cars, too.

Morse fled the scene of the accident and went to his mother’s home. Police were able to identify him via eyewitness accounts and later arrested him.

Luckily, Morse was finally put behind bars for years. But this fact was of little solace to Cynthia Jay-Brennan, who both lost her sister and the ability to move her limbs.

The Biggest Jackpot Winner in History Was Allegedly Killed by Gang Members

In 2003, an anonymous software engineer from LA won a $39.7 million payout through Megabucks. The 25-year-old earned what was then and is still the biggest slots jackpot in history.

As legend goes, he died just days after the win. A number of theories have been floated about how he passed away:

  • Died in an airplane crash
  • Murdered by gang members in LA
  • Overdosed on drugs

No concrete evidence suggests that the winner suffered any of these fates. He still remains anonymous to this day.

IGT also actually responded to inquiries about the young man’s fate. They stated that none of the aforementioned scenarios happened and the man is still alive.

Nevertheless, each of these rumors were regarded as truths among Las Vegas locals at one time or another. Obviously, the rumors can’t all be true unless the man has Lazarus-like qualities and kept rising from the dead each time.

Why the Megabucks Curse Is Complete Fiction

Cynthia Jay-Brennan’s fate is definitely a tragic accident. However, it’s nothing more than a coincidence, not a curse.

Jay-Brennan and her sister just happened to be the unfortunate souls who were sitting at the red light when Clark Morse plowed through.

No mystical, anti-gambling power made Morse get drunk and hit Jay-Brennan’s car. He was a lifelong alcoholic who’d been arrested and convicted of drunk driving many times before. The justice system brought upon the curse in this case. They should’ve locked Morse up for years before this incident and permanently revoked his license.

The man who won $39.7 million likely became the subject of rumors because he won his jackpot just three years after Jay-Brennan. Vegas locals likely believed that bad fate would strike a lucky winner yet again.

Only IGT knows the man’s identity. They felt compelled to squash the rumors by stating that he’s indeed alive.

Furthermore, the winner remains anonymous to this day. Nobody outside of IGT has any real clue what became of him.

Only Cynthia Jay-Brennan’s story is confirmed true. Anything else regarding the software engineer or other winners is fiction until proven otherwise.

You Can Chase Big Slots Jackpots With Little Fear


Megabucks curse tales will continue to filter through Las Vegas as long as this jackpot remains popular. Considering that it’s still seeded at $10 million, both the jackpot and the stories will persist for years to come.

It’s anybody’s guess as to what compels Vegas residents to circulate these tales. Perhaps those telling the stories just want to feel better about not winning the big one themselves.

Of course, urban legends have always been popular. Therefore, locals could simply revel in telling stories of jackpot destruction.

Whatever the case, you can chase the Megabucks jackpot and other huge prizes without worry. No curse will befall you in the aftermath.

If you do win, though, you should consider doing everything possible to remain anonymous. A number of lottery winner horror stories suggest that this is the only way to go after big wins.

Otherwise, third cousins and “neighbors” who live three blocks away will hound you for money. In the worse scenario, you could be murdered over money.

Conclusion

The Megabucks curse dates back to 2000. Megabucks winner Cynthia Jay-Brennan went from joy to misery after being involved in a terrible accident.

The now-paralyzed woman sparked a curse that extended to another winner in 2003. An LA software engineer supposedly died shortly after collecting a record-breaking $39.7 million jackpot.

Although still anonymous, he’s the subject of multiple urban legends. He allegedly died through gang violence, an airplane crash, or an overdose.

The ambiguity surrounding this man’s fate tells you everything that you must know about the Megabucks curse—it’s false!

No voodoo hex is put on winners of Megabucks nor any other jackpot. Anybody who suffers tragedy after winning is either the victim of an unfortunate circumstance or their own doing.

Jay-Brennan falls into the former category. However, both lottery and jackpot winners have caused their own demise through foolish and decisions. You don’t need to avoid chasing the biggest progressive jackpots just because of an alleged curse. An unknown force won’t bring bad luck upon you if you win.

However, you should focus on making good decisions in the aftermath. Don’t spread your story to news outlets and dramatically change your lifestyle just because you’ve become rich.

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Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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