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All bets off as casino refuses to pay jackpot
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 4, 2006 | 6:11 PM ET
CBC News
Two men from Manitoba have hired a lawyer and are threatening legal action after a Winnipeg casino refused to pay out more than $209,000 in slot-machine winnings.

The men were playing a computerized version of Keno last week when they matched all five numbers on the screen.

The machine said the win was worth a jackpot of $209,716.40. The casino said it was a software error.

"It's our position that it's not a mistake that my clients should be paying for, if it was a mistake," lawyer Josh Weinstein told CBC Radio on Tuesday. "We don't have results of independent testing."

The two men, who have asked not to be identified, were playing a nickel machine that requires matching a small set of numbers with another group of numbers randomly generated by the machine's software.

4 million nickels

Weinstein says messages on the machine indicated that matching all five numbers would pay out the equivalent of more than four million nickels.

But the Manitoba Lotteries Corp. says that in some cases, a machine's software can make serious errors. It says nickel machines normally don't pay out more than $3,000.

"This type of malfunction is very rare and it's unfortunate that the machine was being played and it malfunctioned like it did," said Susan Olynik, a vice-president with the corporation.

Olynik said American experts are investigating to see whether there are software errors. The machine involved has been in service for three years and had its software updated last year, officials said. It receives regular maintenance every three to four months.

Corporation in negotiations with men

Weinstein says the screen his clients were playing on showed no warning about a maximum payout.

"My clients saw what the payout was. As they were playing, they saw what five numbers would have gotten someone. It's not disputed that it was on the screen."

But Olynik said the slot machines have a sticker on them advising players that a "malfunction" voids all winnings.

"Discussions with the customer and Manitoba Lotteries are private at this point, but we are meeting with the customer and we are taking a review of the situation," Olynik said. She would not say if they have been offered a lesser prize.

There have been similar cases.

In 2005, a man from Virginia won more than $11 million US at a slot machine on a reserve in Oklahoma, but was told it was a software error, says the Canadian Press.

He settled for a $1,199 US payout.