Casino gambling is big business in the U.S. Legal in 44 states, casinos reportedly earned $261 billion and provide $41 billion in tax revenue, according to the American Gaming Association.
Not surprisingly, Las Vegas is the #1 gambling city in the country. Its 144 casinos, as well as those in Nevada but outside of Las Vegas, are regulated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The purpose of the agency is to prevent fraud.
Slot machines take in over 60% of a casino’s earnings. They’re all, of course, inspected by the Nevada Gaming Control Board on a regular basis. However that doesn’t mean one can’t break every once in a while, even while someone’s playing it. Here’s what happened when that recently happened.
On January 8th, Robert Taylor was playing a slot machine at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino. He lucked out and hit the jackpot – hello, a $229,368.52 jackpot! – on a progressive slot machine. However there was a communications error and the slot machine malfunctioned. Its screen said, “Resolving progressive prize. Please wait.”
Taylor told the Treasure Island casino staff that the slot machine was messed up. He and his family waited while the staff tried to figure out what was wrong with it. But they eventually left, thinking the machine was simply broken and he hadn’t actually won. Besides, they had dinner reservations to catch. The casino reimbursed him for the roughly $40 he had played, so they figured it was a wash, and all was fine.
The slot machine and the casino’s communications technology were both reviewed and, two days after the event, it was confirmed that a jackpot valued at over $229k had actually been won. Unfortunately, by the time the error was noticed, Mr. Taylor and his family, tourists from Arizona, had finished their vacation and gone back home.
No one had any idea of who he was.
From that point, the gaming board had to start searching for this “mystery man” who had won almost a quarter of a million dollars. They gathered multiple agents of the Board’s Enforcement Division involved, who:
- reviewed multiple hours of surveillance footage from several casinos
- interviewed numerous witnesses
- studied electronic purchase records and credit card receipts
- analyzed rideshare data obtained from the Nevada Transportation Authority, as well as a rideshare company
Essentially, they had to retrace this guy’s steps to try to figure out who he was. It took them two weeks, but they finally were able to identify the jackpot winner as Robert Taylor.
To confirm he was the person the team of investigators were looking for, they asked Taylor to provide photos of what he and his family were wearing the night of January 8th, along with information about where they had eaten, plus a description of their whereabouts inside the Treasure Island casino on that evening.
The info they found fit with what Taylor told them. “It became evident that we had the right person,” said James Taylor (no relation to Robert Taylor), who has worked with the Nevada Gaming Control Board for 27 years, and had been the leader of the board’s enforcement division for the past 2½ years.
Two days later, Robert Taylor was told about his $299,368.52 jackpot. He returned to Las Vegas the next day and collected his winnings over the weekend.
“The Nevada Gaming Control Board is charged with the strict regulation of the gaming industry, the protection of the gaming public, and ensuring that the industry benefits the State of Nevada. I commend the agents of the Enforcement Division, particularly Agent Dan Nuqui, for ensuring that the public trust in the gaming industry remains strong by spending countless hours over two weeks to ensure that a patron is awarded winnings owed to him,” James Taylor was quoted in a press release. “I’d also like to thank the Nevada Transportation Authority for their assistance in confirming the identity of the patron. This has been a great example of government working together for the benefit of the public.”
As per the Washington Post, James Taylor said his team investigates almost 400 claims per year from gamblers who believe they’ve won a prize. Most of the time, he said, they’re wrong.
“There’s never been anything like this before, and that’s why it’s so exciting to have a great conclusion to this story,” Taylor told WaPo.
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