The house doesn’t always win

A slot machine malfunction led to a man leaving Vegas without his $229.3k jackpot. The Nevada Gaming Control Board tracked him down.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sometimes, the house has to find you because you left your $229.3k jackpot behind.

In early January, Arizonian Robert Taylor played the slots at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. He hit the jackpot, but nobody knew it.

The problem was a communication error

He was playing a progressive slot machine. With these games, every time someone puts in money, a small percentage is added to the jackpot’s total.

There are 3 types of progressive machines:

  • Standalone
  • Local, which link multiple machines within a casino
  • Wide area network, which link even more machines across casinos and, therefore, have the biggest possible jackpots

Taylor was playing the latter, linked to machines as far away as New Jersey, James Taylor (no relation), chief of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Enforcement Division, told The Hustle.

Specifically, it was one themed after the 1994 Jim Carrey film, The Mask. (Smokin’!)

So, what happened?

The machines communicate with one another as the jackpot rises, but when the player struck gold, the machine malfunctioned and displayed an error message.

By the time Treasure Island figured out what happened, Robert Taylor was long gone.

So, the board — which typically conducts criminal and regulatory investigations — set out to track him down using what James Taylor called “good ol’ police work.”

Except not quite

The board’s Enforcement Division uses tactics like subpoenas when they’re looking for alleged wrongdoers, but this wasn’t that.

So instead, it used its regulatory authority to pore over surveillance footage, tracking the man around Vegas and hoping he’d use a player’s card or check into a hotel. No dice.

Finally, they spotted him getting into a rideshare vehicle. With help from the Nevada Transportation Authority, the board was able to contact the rideshare company, which agreed to inform the man.

How common is this?

It’s not. In fact, James Taylor said this is the 1st time it’s happened in his 28-year career.

It is, however, a very common scam Taylor deals with regularly (scammers call, tell you you’ve won big, but you need to pay taxes first).

If that happens to you, Taylor advises calling the board directly yourself.

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