Can US Casino Refuse to Pay You?
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Can US Casino Refuse to Pay You?

Can US Casino Refuse to Pay You?

Casinos want you to win, but only so much. Or, it might be more accurate to say, they want you to feel like a winner. Remember, the odds are always stacked in favor of the house. For every smiling, big jackpot winner plastered all over the news, there are at least 10,000 losers.

When there is a big winner, it not only causes excitement, it brings hundreds of hopefuls into the casino. If you've ever driven by a casino, you've surely noticed the Jumbotron sign out front, with a picture of the latest smiling big winner. You may have even been tempted to go inside and try your luck.

While overall, casinos are honest businesses, and they want to pay their winners. However, there are times when they can’t pay. Almost always, there are good reasons, or, technicalities, that prevent a casino from paying out.


Reasons Why Land-based Casinos Won’t Payout

There are some very legitimate reasons why a casino, either online or land-based, might not pay you your winnings. So before you start playing, know the rules, and be ready to pocket your cash.


Land-based casinos require that you show your ID before they payout. There are good reasons for this; for example, the casino needs to know that you haven't been playing with stolen credit cards. Also, they have procedures to prevent money laundering. If you don’t present a valid ID, you won’t get paid. If you do go to the casino without your ID, the casino will make out an unclaimed jackpot ticket. Then you'll need to go home, get your ID, go back and turn it in to get paid. An unclaimed jackpot ticket is usually good for 90 days.

The Gambling Intercept Payment System

Another reason why a casino might not payout is if you are in the Gambling Intercept Payment System. This database contains the names, addresses, and other details of people who have monetary judgments against them. This includes child support.

Before paying out, the cashier at the casino must run your name through the Gambling Intercept Payment System. If you legally owe money, the state automatically seizes your winnings directly from the casino. While you may not like that, look at it this way; at least you're caught up on your child support.

Glitchy Slot Machines

Sometimes, a slot machine can experience a glitch, displaying a huge jackpot that was not really won. This is definitely the hardest to accept the reason why a casino won't pay you. Rather than winning six-figures, you may only be owed pocket change.

Slot machines in land-based casinos display warnings and disclaimers, just for this situation. Unfortunately, in this case, the legal system will be on the side of the casino.

If a slot machine glitches, that means the casino doesn't have to payout. Fortunately, glitchy slot machines are a rare occurrence. But, if it does happen to you, you will feel cheated, despite the warnings and disclaimers pasted on the machine.

The casinos are obligated to maintain and service the slot machines, which doesn’t help the situation. They had a bad machine on the floor, and yet, they benefited. Unfortunately, that is just the way the chips fall, sometimes.


Reasons Why Online Casinos Won't Payout

The reasons why an online casino won't pay you are slightly different from land-based casinos. Also, the reasons are almost always legitimate. Once again, before you start playing, know the rules.


Misunderstood Terms and Conditions

This is the number one reason a casino fails to pay out a perceived win. For example, the rules around bonus money and free spins can be confusing. Unfortunately, the rules around bonuses and free spins are often slanted towards the house.

You can't cash out winnings from free spins or bonus money without first satisfying the terms and conditions. Even if the rules don't seem fair. Be sure to understand the bonus terms before you begin playing. Only when the terms have been satisfied can you cash out your winnings.

Opening More Than One Player Account

Online casinos limit players to just one account; they do this to prevent fraud. By opening more than one account, shady characters can game the system. For example, a person with more than one account can take several seats at a poker table, and rig the game. Also, multiple player accounts are one way a criminal can use an online casino to launder money.

If an online casino finds that you've opened more than one account, they'll seize your funds, and close all of your accounts. You'll also be banned for life.

You Used Someone Else's Credit Card

Even if someone wants to gift you gambling money, they can not do so directly, using their credit or debit card. Rather, they should transfer money to your bank account. Or, they can buy you a gift card, such as a prepaid VISA or MasterCard.

The reason for this is obvious; the casinos want to prevent thieves from using stolen credit cards. Once again, by using someone else's credit card, you risk having your funds seized and your account banned.

You Signed Up with False Information

You need to sign up with your real name, and with accurate information. For example, if an online casino discovers that you are underage, they will close your account and seize your winnings. Likewise, you need to sign up with your personal bank account and credit cards.

You Played with a VPN

A casino might not pay out if their system detects that you have logged in using a VPN (a virtual private network). Casinos in the United States are regulated on a state-by-state basis, and players must be in the state where the casino is licensed to play. Since a VPN obscures your exact location, the casino can not verify that you are legally playing within the borders of the state. In that case, your winnings could be canceled.

You Deposited Money, But Haven't Won Anything

Well, that is the nature of gambling, you generally lose more than you win. Just because you haven't won anything yet, doesn't mean the casino is dishonest; casinos licensed, regulated, and audited by the state must have honest games. However, if you really think the games are rigged, you can file a complaint with the state gambling authority.

The Casino Payout Hasn't Come Through Yet

It may take several days for a payment to be processed. Each casino has a time-frame for payouts in the terms and conditions. Be patient, it will come through.

The Gambling Intercept Payment System

An online casino may also be a part of the Gambling Intercept System. If you are in the database they will give your money directly to the state.

Before paying out, they will run your name through the Gambling Intercept Payment System. If you owe a monetary judgment, such as child support, the state automatically sends your winnings to the state, to pay for that.

Glitchy Games

Sometimes, an online casino game could experience a glitch. Just like land-based slot machines, each game has a maximum win, let's say, $20,000. But if a glitch causes the game to say you won $200,000, the casino won't pay you. That seems very unfair, but it's simply the way the chips fall.

Also, a few clever gamblers have figured out ways to exploit software glitches; for example, casino software engineer, Ronald Dale Harris, wrote code for software machines he could exploit. For years, Harris successfully cheated at the games he designed. It wasn't until his partner in crime hit a Keno win with all 8 winning numbers that suspicion was raised. The odds of hitting all 8 numbers are 230,000 to 1.

If an online casino finds out that you have exploited a software vulnerability, they won't pay you. On top of that, they may even take you to court.


Cases of Big Wins that weren't

While big jackpot winners make the news, so do big losers. There are a few high-profile stories of winners that really weren't. These unfortunate people thought they had hit it big, but unfortunately, a software glitch canceled out their winnings.

While this is highly unusual, it's not unheard of. A moment of unbelievable joy at a life-changing win instantly dashed into the depths of despair and loss.

It doesn't feel fair, but, most of the time, the casino has the law on its side. That's because they have an army of high-priced lawyers, to craft their disclaimers and other policies. Also, it's unlikely little guys like us can afford to beat them in court. Unfortunately, that's the truth.

But, that's not to discourage your play. There are many more cases of million-dollar wins that were paid out. Simply be aware, that sometimes, your big jackpot is not what it seems.


The Infamous Tale of Katrina Bookman

The case of Katrina Bookman is perhaps the best-known tale of a gigantic jackpot that really wasn't. Ms. Bookman was enjoying herself one late summer evening, at the Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York. Playing a penny slot machine, the bells went off, and the screen said she had won a mind-blowing $42,949,672.76.

Ms. Bookman immediately took a smiling selfie in front of the screen, as proof of her win. She grabbed her ticket and ran to the cashier. However, rather than saying she had won $42,949,672.76, the printed ticket said she had won just $2.25.

The cashier offered to not only pay her $2.25 but also threw in a free steak dinner. As you can imagine, that didn't make her feel better.

The casino refused to pay the mega-jackpot because the Sphinx Slot Machine she had been playing glitched. The malfunction was verified by the New York State Gaming Commission, and they pulled the machine off the floor.

On top of the malfunction, the posted maximum win on the Sphinx Slot Machine is $6,500. Bookman did retain a lawyer, who argued that the casino was negligent for not maintaining the machine, which contributes to the error. In that case, his client should be paid.

Sadly, Ms. Bookman's dreams of helping her family and her community were not to be. It's unlikely she will win a settlement against the Resort World Casino.


The Sad Case of Veronica Castillo

Like Katrina Bookman, Veronica Castillo had what seemed to be a multi-million dollar jackpot slip through her fingers.

Ms. Castillo patiently played $100 on a 5-cent Jurassic Riches slot machine at the Lucky Eagle Casino, in Rochester, Washington. Suddenly, bright lights flashed, bells rang, and dollar signs filled the screen. Apparently, she had won $8.5 million.

Like Ms. Bookman, Ms. Castillo immediately took a picture of the screen proclaiming her multi-million dollar win. She had dreams of sending her kids to the best colleges.

But her joy, and her dreams, were dashed within minutes. As the floor manager approached her, his sad and guilt-ridden expression said it all. The Jurassic Riches slot machine had malfunctioned. All the casino owed her was $80.35, less than the $100 she had spent.

Like all slot machines, the Jurassic Riches at the Lucky Eagle Casino had a malfunction disclaimer, and a $20,000 maximum jackpot posted on it.

The casino's CEO, John Setterstrom, launched an investigation. He contacted Jurassic Riches manufacturer, Rocket Gaming Systems, demanding a forensic investigation. However, the reason for the malfunction was never uncovered.

There are reports that after seeking legal counsel, Veronica Castillo was offered $30,000. While far less than $8.5 million, it is significantly more than $80.35. But, nonetheless, Ms. Castillo walked away feeling deeply cheated.


Gambling Grandma Goes Home Empty Handed

Pauline McKee, an 87-year-old grandmother from Antioch, Illinois, put 25-cents into a Miss Kitty slot machine at the Isle Hotel Casino in Waterloo, Iowa. To her astonishment, the screen proclaimed that she had won a fortune of $41,797,550.16.

But, when Ms. McKee tried to cash the ticket, the casino launched an investigation. The casino gave her $10 to play and comped her and her relatives’ rooms while they waited.

At the end of the investigation, the casino concluded that McKee had won $1.85.

An Iowa state investigation concluded that the $41 million jackpot was the result of a software error, and thus, invalid. The state investigators also noted that the Isle Casino had paid the $1.85, plus comped Ms. McKee $10, plus the free hotel stays.

Tests concluded the Miss Kitty slot machine had given an error message. Aristocrat Technologies, Inc., the game's manufacturer, had sent out a warning, 2 years previously, that some machines were vulnerable to displaying erroneous bonus payouts. Aristocrat told casinos using the older machines to disable the bonus messages to prevent such an error. However, the Isle Casino did not do this.

While Pauline McKee sued the casino, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Pauline McKee was a loser.

The rules of the Miss Kitty game had a maximum prize of $10,000 and no bonus prizes, wrote Justice Edward Mansfield. Furthermore, the game rules and payout table, available through the touch screen, are the same as a contract between the player and the casino. Whether or not a player reads those, does not matter.

Legal appeals did not matter, either. In the end, all Pauline got for her trouble was a $1.85 prize, $10 in free play, and a free hotel stay. Her dreams of leaving her family a fortune were not to be.


What if This Happens to You?

Unfortunately, when a casino decides they do not have to pay you, there's not a whole lot you can do to challenge it. Before the games even hit the floor, there are iron-clad rules and disclaimers drawn up. Moreover, casinos have a lot more money than you, and they can afford better lawyers than you can. Casinos know the law, and if they refuse to pay, it's because they know the law is on their side.

However, keep in mind, casinos do not want to cheat their players; they want to maintain their license, as well as their reputation. Player goodwill and loyalty are very important to both land-based and online casinos. Casinos want to pay their winners, but they don’t want to pay out huge jackpots if they don't have to.

Therefore, if a slot machine flashes a huge mega-win and a cash ticket, don’t hold your breath. Yes, you may be a big winner. On the other hand, you could be the victim of a slot machine malfunction. Until the casino management confirms your win, keep your cool. If they say it's a malfunction, but offer you a comped room or a free steak dinner, count yourself lucky.

You can hire a lawyer and take them to court. However, the casino already has a good defense, it was planned before you ever stepped foot onto the casino floor.


An Albanian Man “Wins” $57 million in an Austrian Casino

The stories of near-miss wins are not confined to the USA, it's a worldwide phenomenon. Take, for example, the story of Behar Merlaku, an Albanian playing slots at the Casino Austria AG, in Bregenz, Austria.

Once the reels stopped spinning, the machine bells rang loudly, proclaiming that Merlaku had won forty-three million euros; that's equivalent to nearly $57 million. Like other almost winners, Mr. Merlaku used his cellphone to document his win.

However, when the lucky Albanian went to cash in his ticket, he was told he did not win € 43 million, but more like € 43. It seems Merlaku was the victim of a software glitch.

The casino offered him the equivalent of $100 and a free dinner. Needless to say, Mr. Merlaku was not happy. Rather than accept the offer, he lawyered-up. Not only did he lose his court case, but Casino Austria AG also banned him from the premises.

On top of the software glitch, Austria has a € 2 million jackpot cap; the casino argued, there was no way for Merlaku to win € 43 million.

Merlaku had this to say, "The jackpot was loud and clear. There was music and the amount I had won, nearly €43 million, was displayed on a screen."

Unfortunately, like the American women, selfies showing the big win did not affect the Austrian legal proceedings. In fact, Merlaku's selfie showed he only had four of the five reels on the fruit machine aligned.


Software Bugs Affect Both Online and Land-based Slot Games

Often, both modern, land-based slot machines and online slot games use the same software. Rather than mechanical, spinning wheels, modern slot machines are essentially computer games. They're simply dressed up in a big, fancy box with flashing lights and sound effects.

As we all know, the world of software can be infested with bugs. Fortunately, gaming software goes through rigorous review, not only by the developers, but it's also by the state. The casinos are not only licensed, but also the game developers and machine manufacturers. The state wants to ensure that every casino game under its jurisdiction is fair, bug-free and well built.

As long as software bugs didn’t occur through negligence or sabotage, it will be very difficult for a lawyer to win your case. But that's not to say you shouldn't try. If you lose a giant jackpot due to a malfunction, consult a lawyer. 

However, do record as much as you can, such as taking a selfie with the screen and ticket.  But, if it doesn't pay out, definitely consider taking what the casino offers you.While ending up with a steak dinner instead of $8.5 million is deeply disappointing, it's better than nothing. You might try negotiating for more, but unless case law is on your side, don't count on winning.


Exploiting Software Bugs Can Get You Banned, or Worse, Land You In Court

While software bugs can, unfortunately, create near-miss winners, other players exploit software bugs to game the system.

“Bug abuse” is a real thing, in which an online player uses a glitch in the casino’s software to benefit financially. This is a serious violation of the rules, that will get you banned, and your funds seized. It may even get you prosecuted.

Online casino bug abuse uses software glitches, in three ways; on the casino website, on the gaming code, or through the payment system.

Hacking the casino website servers is one way to exploit bugs. However, exploiting bugs in the gaming code is much more common. With thousands and thousands of games online, chances are, at least a few have bugs that can be exploited. For example, a glitch in the code could produce more jackpots than intended.

Payment system bugs are rarely exploited. Payment systems, such as Skrill or Paypal, are very hard to exploit. They are built to be bulletproof and are very hard to game.

Finally, coding bugs are very hard to detect, unless you can look at the code, and actually understand it. Needless to say, proprietary gaming code is not in the public domain. So, unless you work for a gaming company, you won't ever see it.

However, dishonest gaming developers writing in bugs to exploit will get prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The same goes for hacking a casino website.

Most of the time, bug abuse happens when a player comes across a glitchy game that keeps paying out. If you come across a buggy game, you need to report it. To keep exploiting it means any winnings from the game will be void. In the worst case, your account will be banned.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, casinos are not paragons of virtue; they make billions of dollars every year, exploiting human weakness. However, they are generally fair to their players, and often generous givers to their communities. Image is everything, and casinos want to project a good image.

In places where there are several casinos, such as in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, they want to do right by their patrons, to keep them coming back. Customer loyalty is very important to casinos, and they do not want to lose them to the competition.

But, casinos are businesses that make money and lots of it. But, they have employees to pay, and property to maintain; so, while they make millions, they also have millions in expenses. Like any business, a casino can’t stay in business if it pays out millions of dollars in winnings, caused by malfunctions.

Casinos know the law, and they follow the law. That includes applying the law to players who try to game their system. They will not pay out millions of dollars when they don't have to.

Fortunately, game malfunctions occur very rarely. The level of testing and control that goes into gaming software is quite impressive. It nearly ensures malfunctions won't happen.

If you find yourself on the losing end of an unfortunate gaming malfunction, remain calm. Remain level-headed, and try to work it out with the casino. Ask for a reasonable amount. But remember, they hold all of the chips, and your best bet is to simply get something out of it.

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