Every year, over 50 million people visit casinos hoping to make it big. Over 90% of these visitors leave with nothing. In 2015, a loan officer vacationed at a casino and hit the jackpot: over $8.5 million! Her winning only lasted minutes, however. She never received the money due to a “machine malfunction.”
There’s a lot more to Veronica Castillo’s case than meets the eye. Not only has this malfunction never happened in at least 20 years, but it also shouldn’t be possible. Does the casino owe Veronica her winnings? Check out the story that has the internet fired up.
What Started As An Average Trip To The Slots…
In 2015, Portland, Oregon native Veronica Castillo spent the day at Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester. The 45-year-old loan officer wanted to spend some quality time with her mother. She certainly wasn’t expecting to make national headlines.
Although gambling relies on chance, Veronica knew her way around numbers. She decided to test her luck at the slot machines, a game where everyone–beginner and veteran gamblers alike–has equal odds.
… Defied The Odds That Few People Achieve
Instead of jumping from machine to machine as many players do, Veronica opted to stay at one machine the entire time. She never expected that her strategy would land her success.
Slot machines don’t function like card games. While different players have their own strategies, the slots offer less than an 8% chance of winning any amount at all. For most machines, the chances of achieving the max amount are less than 0.1%.
Veronica’s Winning Strategy
Veronica sat down at a dinosaur-themed slot machine called Jurassic Riches. Each roll only cost one nickel, and Jessica kept the coins coming. With each crank, she felt closer to the jackpot.
Although she bet all of her money on one machine, Veronica promised herself that she wouldn’t spend more than $100 in nickels. Fortunately, she spent the right amount of money. But she would later learn that she played on the wrong machine.
The Biggest Slot Win Of The Decade
Just when Veronica had spent about $100, the icons on the machine lined up perfectly. Bright lights flashed, and dollar signs leaped across the screen. According to Jurassic Riches, she had just won 8.5 million dollars.
“I was excited,” Veronica said in an interview. “I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock.” As anyone would do, Veronica snapped a picture of her win. She planned to put her kids through school with the money.
How Her Win Only Lasted Minutes
As Veronica cherished her winnings, the casino manager approached her. Instead of appearing congratulatory, they appeared solemn and guilty. The staff informed Veronica that she didn’t win millions: that the machine had experienced a malfunction.
All of Veronica’s wildest hopes crashed in only a couple of minutes. As the manager spoke calmly to her, staff worked fluidly to disconnect and remove Jurassic riches. Her money and the evidence of her earnings vanished in minutes.
Although She Wanted To, She Couldn’t Fight It Right Away
Beyond her paralyzing shock, Veronica couldn’t afford to stand her ground. Regular gamblers know that every machine comes with an advisory sticker. This warning advises people that if the machine malfunctions, all payments will nullify.
Any complications surrounding machines allows casino staff to refuse payment. If Veronica had stirred up a scene, she would have made her case less credible. However, her bitter, betrayed feeling never went away.
Veronica’s Real “Reward”
Despite the casino staff crushing Veronica’s dreams that she didn’t even know she had, they did offer her a reward. They gave her a cash ticket for A $80.35 win. Remember that Veronica had spent $100 on the slot machine.
Looking at the ticket, Veronica felt cheated. She walked away questioning the casino’s honesty. When her story hit national headlines, readers and reporters alike assumed that something fishy was happening.
Investigators Enter The Fray
As Veronica shared her story, members of the press did some digging. KOIN 6 respondent Lisa Balick spoke to both Veronica and the casino’s management to cover the full story. Her scavenging paid off.
Eventually, Lisa bypassed Lucky Eagle Casino’s management and contacted the company’s CEO, John Setterstrom. His input resulted in more controversy and curious insight into Veronica’s deprived eight million.
This Shouldn’t Be Possible
Setterstrom has operated casinos since 1995. Before he managed casinos, he worked as a dealer and floor manager in Las Vegas. But even with over 20 years of experience, Setterstrom told Lisa that he had never seen anything like what happened to Veronica.
Upon hearing Veronica’s story, Setterstrom felt just as shocked as Veronica. He decided to conduct a private investigation on Jurassic Riches and said that he would contact the slot machine’s manufacturers.
How Slot Machines Malfunction
In the 1960s, slot machines ran on spinning drums that made malfunctions virtually impossible. Today, every slot machine operates from a sophisticated software called a random number generator. The fragile, yet essential software makes modern slot machines more prone to messing up.
Slot machines can display fake winnings through coin jams, switch failures, power outages, accidental contact, computer chip failure, empty hoppers, or accidental bumping. Any of these reasons could explain why so many people encounter false jackpots.
The Casino’s Response
Rocket Gaming Systems, the manufacturer of Jurassic Riches, released a statement through The Daily Mail in November of 2015. They said that they did not figure out how the machine malfunctioned, “although it is absolutely clear that the gaming machine played by Ms. Castillo experienced a display malfunction.”
Rocket Gaming Systems declared that they were conducting a “forensic investigation” to discover how the machine malfunctioned. So far, they have yet to reveal any clarifying results.
Jurassic Riches Couldn’t Even Offer $8 Million
As if to add insult to injury, Rocket Gaming Systems told The Daily Mail that Jurassic Riches couldn’t possibly win someone a million dollars. “This machine offers a maximum jackpot of $20,000,” they said, “if a maximum bet is placed on all lines.”
Based on the amount that Veronica entered into the machine, Rocket estimated that she could have won $6,000 at best. They did not clarify how Veronica achieved $8 million.
Casinos Make Far More Money Than The Players Do
It’s no secret that casinos make quite a lot of money off of gamblers. In 2013, researchers at the University of Las Vegas found that 23 Vegas casinos rake in over $5 billion of their visitor’s money altogether in one year. Winning any of that back is highly unlikely.
Because of these earnings, some people believe that casinos rob their players of jackpots. However, security teams and staff oversee the floor to ensure that there are no cheating or machine meltdowns.
Lucky Eagle Casino Did Everything It Could
Joseph Dupuis, CEO of Lucky Eagle Casino, said that in all his time at the casino, he’s never seen anything like this. He offered Veronica an additional free weekend stay as an apology, “as well as dining at the property and free play included.”
The cost of an entire weekend at Lucky Eagle easily exceeds $600, along with Veronica’s $80 slot machine gains. In comparison to her potential $8 million, though, would this outing satisfy Veronica?
Veronica Fights Back
Despite the casino’s effort to make it up to Veronica, she still felt like she was played for a fool. The loans manager wrote a blog post on social media, declaring that she would take things a step further. “To me, it’s cheating,” she stated in an interview. “It may even be fraudulent.”
“My first thought was, how many people has this happened to?” she told KOIN 6 news. “They think they won, then going away empty-handed.”
This Situation Has Happened Before
Whether Veronica knew it or not, slot machines have disappointed plenty of people with their malfunctions. In 2018, Katrina Bookman played the Sphinx Slot Machine at the Resort World Casino in New York. She won $42 million, the biggest jackpot in history. The next day, managers told her that it was a machine malfunction.
Just before Veronica’s experience, 90-year-old Pauline McKee achieved $41 million at the Isle of Capri Casinos in Iowa. She was also told that her machine malfunctioned.
Veronica Takes Them To Court
Veronica announced on her Facebook page that she was looking for an attorney. “If it needs to go to trial, then we’ll go to trial,” she told The Oregonian. However, Veronica was already at a disadvantage.
Pauline McKee had also taken a casino to court, and the jury ruled that the machine’s contract and disclaimer did not promise her any winnings. In the end, she didn’t get her money.
Veronica’s Upper Hand
In this case, Veronica has evidence that McKee didn’t. After the Jurassic Riches fiasco, Washington State Commission spokesperson Susan Newer revealed that the machine acted “odd” before “spinning backwards.”
Although casinos nationwide are regulated by the federal government, in Washington state, they undergo several inspections. Jurassic Riches did not pass these initial inspections and was not approved for use. This point can be used against Lucky Eagle Casino.
Should Anyone Expect Machines To Fail?
In an interview, Heather Songer of the Washington State Gambling Commission brought up that gambling machines should rarely, if ever, malfunction. “Nationwide, it’s extremely rare to see a major machine malfunction,” she explained. “So consumers should feel confident that when they are sitting at a gaming machine, it’s going to function properly.”
This statement seems to contradict the many stories of people getting jackpots due to a machine malfunction. Did Veronica deserve to receive her winnings?
Veronica’s Case Now
Four years later, no updates have surfaced regarding Veronica’s case. She has reached out for advice and attorney recommendations on social media, but no Lucky Eagle Casino court case has occurred.
Although some cases have resulted in machines breaking and ghost jackpots, these cases aren’t common. However, keep these stories in mind the next time you game. The odds of achieving millions really are incredibly low.