Anybody who strolls into a casino with their hard-earned money at the ready has one thing in mind—winning. Of course, winning isn’t always in the cards when it comes to casino gambling, but the dream endures nonetheless.
Whether it’s a huge progressive jackpot on the slots, a royal flush hand pay in video poker, or a “Rain Man” like streak at the blackjack tables, beating the house for big bucks is a goal that unites all gamblers. But every so often, what seems to be an extravagant win to the naked eye is eventually revealed to be nothing but an illusion.
In the case of Katrina Bookman, what appeared to be a record-setting slot machine jackpot at first glance was merely a mirage.
What’s Katrina Bookman Story?
In late August of 2016, 44-year-old Bookman visited the Resorts World Casino in Jamaica, Queens, to enjoy a few spins on the slots. On that day, Bookman decided to play the Sphinx Wild game, a basic 5×5 reel alignment slot manufactured by International Game Technology (IGT).
Playing for 40 cents per spin on the 40-payline “penny machine,” Bookman and her partner couldn’t believe their eyes when the game screen lit up and froze in place. She took an excited selfie next to the screen, which shows her last spin that read the following message:
“PRINTING CASH TICKET: $42,949,672
PLEASE REMOVE TICKET”
Naturally, Bookman was positively beaming with pride and elation. Almost immediately, she harkened back to her younger days bouncing between foster care and homelessness.
As she later told ABC-7 NY News, Bookman couldn’t quite help herself from making plans for her massive eight-figure payday:
“I kept thinking about my family. The struggle I’ve been through, it’s hard to cope.”
Having raised four children successfully into adulthood, on her own mind you, Bookman quickly earmarked $1 million for her son’s long held dream of owning a barbershop.
Unfortunately for the Bookman family, those dreams were quickly dashed when casino management ushered her off the gaming floor. They told her to come back tomorrow to learn about the venue’s “official ruling.”
That language was obviously alarming, but Bookman dutifully returned to ask the all-important question:
“I said what did I win? (The casino rep said) You didn’t win nothing.”
According to Bookman, the higher-ups at Resorts World Casino told her that the titanic jackpot was simply the product of a machine malfunction. To add insult to injury, management reportedly offered her $2.25—the amount they said she rightfully won on the fateful spin—along with a complimentary steak dinner.
Suddenly confronted with such crushing disappointment, Bookman flatly refused the “offer” and set to work contacting an attorney.
Why Did the Casino Decide to Void Bookman’s Massive Jackpot?
In the casino’s official statement to CNN Money, Resorts World representative Dan Bank explained why Bookman’s apparent jackpot had gone up in smoke:
“Casino personnel were able to determine that the figure displayed on the penny slot was the result of an obvious malfunction – a fact later confirmed by the New York State Gaming Commission.”
Indeed, had the nearly $43 million payday been awarded, Bookman would’ve broken the American slot jackpot record of over $39 million. That enormous haul was bagged by an anonymous winner at the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas back in 2003.
Crucially, however, the 2003 score was claimed on the Megabucks slot, another IGT product that seeds its elusive progressive jackpot with a $10 million starting point.
As for Bookman, she was playing Sphinx Wild, a standard slot game which is not linked to any wide area progressive jackpot networks. As such, the posted maximum payout on Sphinx Wild stands at $6,500. It’s a decent profit, but one which pales in comparison to the prize Bookman believed to be hers.
Like almost every slot machine in the world, this particular Sphinx Wild game at Resorts World was emblazoned with the following disclaimer:
“MALFUNCTION VOIDS ALL PAYS AND PLAYS”
According to Resorts World and the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), that disclaimer provides the casino with all the protection it needs in cases like this. Furthermore, the casino asserts that Bookman should’ve known that a non-progressive jackpot game couldn’t possibly pay out the largest jackpot ever won on American soil.
Nonetheless, Bookman refused to surrender her claim and took her case to attorney Alan Ripka.
How Did Bookman’s Legal Team Respond to the Casino’s Claim?
In an interview with ABC-7 NY News, Ripka outlined his client’s contention that the casino should be on the hook — malfunction or otherwise:
“You can’t claim a machine is broken because you want it to be broken. Does that mean it wasn’t inspected? Does it mean it wasn’t maintained?
And if so, does that mean that people that played there before [Bookman] had zero chance of winning?”
Of course, the casino has kept its own cards close to the vest. When Ripka requested a more detailed explanation as to the malfunction’s nature and origins, Resorts World declined to comment further. Additionally, after being named as a defendant alongside the casino’s parent company, IGT also chose to stay tight-lipped.
Arguing that the ordeal has caused Bookman both significant “mental anguish” and “significant” financial loss, Ripka deemed Resorts World and IGT to be “negligent.”
In the aforementioned interview, Ripka asked why the casino should be allowed to keep the money Bookman lost on that Sphinx Wild machine, all while refusing to pay when she seemingly won:
“They win and the house doesn’t want to pay out. To me that’s unfair.
The machine takes your money when you lose. It ought to pay it when you win.”
While ostensibly seeking $43 million in damages to match the screen’s jackpot display, Ripka argued that Bookman should, at the very least, receive the machine’s max payout of $6,500.
Bookman readily agreed, telling the local news outlet that she would be content with that outcome.
How Did Bookman’s Legal Case Proceed From There?
After scouring the internet for further mentions of Bookman, Resorts World Casino, and the NYSGC, no news of a settlement or ruling can be found.
Given the demonstrable facts of her case—Sphinx Wild doesn’t offer multimillion-dollar jackpots and the machine clearly states malfunctions void all payouts — it’s a virtual certainty that Bookman’s claim was eventually denied.
This outcome would conform to legal precedents established in several similar cases involving slot jackpot malfunctions.
Two years prior, a 90-year-old grandmother saw her slot game in Iowa City announce a $41 million jackpot. While she had her doubts based on previous experience playing penny machines, the woman held out hope that the jackpot was legitimate.
Eventually though, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Isle Casino Hotel. Finding that a provable malfunction had caused the screen to present the inordinately high payout, the Court denied the nonagenarian’s claim.
Unfortunately for Bookman and other real money slots players, modern machines equipped with computerized random number generators (RNGs) can and do malfunction. And shielded by business-friendly state regulations, along with those ubiquitous “MALFUNCTION VOIDS ALL PAYS AND PLAYS” labels, casinos always have the upper hand in cases such as this.
Bookman’s story is tragic to say the least, as any gambler who chases the big jackpots can attest. To grind out thousands upon thousands of spins over several years before finally connecting for a multimillion-dollar jackpot is a truly life-changing experience. Watching all of that disappear in an instant, through no fault of your own, would be crushingly painful.
With that said, Bookman did have a few clues in front of her which suggested that the big win was too good to be true. Here’s hoping Lady Luck smiles her way once more, only for real this time.
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. ...
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.