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Lawyer Makes 'Objection' in Slot Jackpot Dispute

23 April 2008

You may have read the story that hit the newswires late last month about the lawyer whose $5.15 million slot jackpot in a gaming center at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands was ruled the result of a machine malfunction, which disqualified him from claiming the bonanza.

The incident allegedly took place in the Ocean Club Gaming Center at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa on the Island of St. Thomas. The attorney's name is Alvin C. Paulson, a partner in the law firm of Becker, Paulson, Hoerner & Thompson in Belleville, Illinois.

"The gaming center wasn't very big," Paulson told me when I placed a call to him at his offices. "Perhaps 100 slot machines but no table games. It's located in the lobby of the resort. I go to a casino maybe twice a year and don't normally play slots. On our first evening there, I decided to sit down at a quarter machine and put in a twenty-dollar bill."

On one spin, according to Paulson, "the lights and sirens went off". He looked down at the machine's credit meter and Paulson said it showed he had won 20.5 million quarters (over $5 million).

"The meter started running up the credits and a big crowd began to gather, but less than a minute later an employee came over and reached around behind the machine to shut if off, claiming there had been a malfunction," Paulson said.

The manager was summoned and Paulson asked him what he was going to do. "Nothing" was the answer, confirming a malfunction had taken place.

"He offered me $100 and I told him 'no way'," Paulson said. "I said I'd settle if they picked up the cost of our stay for me and my family, but the manager refused. I don't know what I'm entitled to, or whether I'm entitled to anything. But I think I'm certainly entitled to something."

Paulson says that he still had $16.50 in credit in the machine and he didn't even get that back. He has filed a lawsuit.

"I'd like someone to prove to me it was a malfunction. I just didn't like the way I was treated. That's my biggest problem. They admitted I had won a jackpot, but only one hundred or so dollars. I found it odd that the machine was back in service the very next day, but the following day they had shut it down and roped off the area."

Rich Roberts, vice-president of communications for Wyndham Hotel Group, told me that the Ocean Club Gaming Center is operated by Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands, which leases space for its casino operation from the resort's owner, the Sugar Bay Club and Resort Company of St. Thomas.

Wyndham operates the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa under contract to the property owner.

"Wyndham Hotel Management Company, a subsidiary of Wyndham Hotel Group, has no business relationship with the casino or Southland Gaming," Roberts said. "Decisions regarding casino operations and winnings are made solely by Southland Gaming and the Virgin Islands Gaming Commission, which investigated Mr. Paulson's allegations."

Roberts could not comment on the specifics of the allegations in light of the fact Paulson has filed a lawsuit.

Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands is an independently owned and operated company based in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Shaine Gaspard, vice president of Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands, stated when I contacted him that it is company policy not to discuss specifics of ongoing litigation, but added: "Southland Gaming believes that the plaintiff's claims will be shown to be totally without merit in the litigation."

The U.S. Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission did not respond to my e-mail inquiry for information.

The moral of the story is "let the gambler beware". If something irregular does occur, be sure to document all of the specifics. Paulson, for example, could not tell me what kind of machine he was playing or how many quarters he played per spin, nor did he know the combination of reel symbols he received on the alleged jackpot spin.

CASINO NEWS: Among the 11 casinos in the state of Indiana, the denomination that generated the most coin-in during February 2008 was the 564 one-dollar units at Horseshoe Hammond with $116,513,161. The denomination that generated the most casino win was the 652 penny units at Resorts East Chicago with $9,731,514.

The flop: The coin-in on the pennies at Resorts was $80,176,944. The Shoe's dollar slots out-handled them by $36,336,217. In spite of $36-million more in coin-in, the dollar slots at Horseshoe made less money for the casino than the penny games did for Resorts.

The turn: Penny slots are great fun and very entertaining, but they come with a high price. Gamblers as a collective group win far less on them than the higher denominations. Casinos, in turn, make much more money on them because the hold percentage is so high.

The river: The next time someone asks you why low-denomination, multi-line/multi-line slot machines are taking over casino floors nationwide, you'll know the answer.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp