Sure, casinos are all about having fun, but at the end of the day we’re all in it to win it.
And if a machine told you that you’d hit the jackpot you’d be ecstatic – your life would change forever.
So you can imagine the excitement when Katrina Bookman entered Resorts World Casino in New York and hit a win for almost $43 million.
But when she came to withdraw her winnings, she was informed by a casino employee that the slot machine had malfunctioned, and she had won nothing.
What could have become the biggest slot machine jackpot in US history soon became an unparalleled ordeal for Bookman…
What Happened At The Casino?
On that fateful day over six years ago, Bookman headed to Resorts World Casino in New York.
She was playing Sphinx Wild, a popular slot game by a reputable software provider, and put just 40 cents into the machine.
It’s impossible to imagine how she must have felt when the machine alerted her to a jackpot win of $42.9 million.
Hitting the big time that day in late August 2016, Bookman saw the luck for her whole family change – earmarking $1 million for her aspiring barber son.
Envisioning his dreams of a family barbershop come to fruition, she could barely wait to tell him the news.
However, the slot machine’s alarm bells were no match for those in Bookman’s head when she joyously went to collect her winnings.
Turning her away empty-handed, casino management asked her to review the venue’s “official ruling” and return the following morning.
Disturbed, as she turned to return home, she overheard a staff member saying Bookman “didn’t win nothing.”
After a sleepless night, Bookman returned to Resorts World Casino clutching the winning ticket.
To her horror, she was instead offered a complimentary steak dinner and the alleged $2.25 Sphinx Wild winnings she was owed, thanks to a machine malfunction.
This would be a heartbreaking result for anyone, but it was particularly hard news for Bookman – raised in foster care, homeless as a teenager and later a single mom to four kids – to take, as she hasn’t had it easy in life.
“I kept thinking about my family. The struggle I’ve been through; it’s hard to cope,” she told WABC in a tearful interview.
For someone who could really do with a break, the machine’s malfunction seemed particularly cruel.
The Court Case
Bookman turned the casino down and instead took them up on a date at the Queens County Supreme Court, where she aimed to sue Resorts World Casino, partners Genting New York LLC, and software provider IGT for $42,949,672.76 in damages.
What would have been the largest slot machine jackpot in US history was fast becoming a record-breaking nightmare.
Bookman, who was denied the full payout, cited that the torment of the saga affected her nervous system and left her “embarrassed, anxious and depressed.”
Her attorney Alan Ripka challenged the accused, arguing that she was entitled to $6,500 (the maximum slot machine win) at the bare minimum. “The machine takes your money when you lose. It ought to pay it when you win,” retorted Ripka.
However, the defendant refused the claim, instead apologizing to Bookman for the inconvenience the ‘malfunction’ had caused.
“You can’t claim a machine is broken because you want it to be broken,” Alan Ripka told CNNMoney.
“Does that mean it wasn’t inspected? Does it mean it wasn’t maintained? And if so, does that mean people that played there before [Bookman] had zero chance of winning?”
The New York State Gaming Commission said the machine had been displaying a disclaimer that read: “Malfunctions void all pays and plays.”
Checking out Resorts World’s casino floor games menu, the legendary Sphinx Wild machine is still earning its keep to this day amongst the thousands of titles in the New York complex.
Not only that – there are even updated variations of the slot now available, such as Sphinx and Sphinx 3D.
Where Is Katrina Bookman Now?
Though we have searched for any clue as to what became of the trial, as of 2023, there is no evidence to show who won the case.
It is entirely likely that the prosecution was either dismissed or is still ongoing (as many cases still are, thanks to COVID-19 delays).
However, using a historical example of a similar trial, Pauline McKee, a 90-year-old grandmother from Illinois, was spinning her way to slot heaven on the Miss Kitty game at the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo.
To her astonishment, she rang in a slot jackpot of $41 million.
Enjoying casino games throughout her life, the seasoned gambler was skeptical but had high hopes of being proven wrong.
Much like Bookman, McKee was damningly told that she had not won a dime close to the supposed jackpot due to a slot machine malfunction, so the argument was taken to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, the defendant (Isle Casino Hotel) won the case, claiming that on-screen rules state that ‘Malfunction voids all pays and plays.’
Though devastating, real-life examples are sometimes necessary to remind gamblers that random number generators (RNGs) operate the wins of slot machines.
You can’t predict their outcome, with big losses just as likely (if not more) than massive jackpot wins.
Plus, with daily wear and tear, this makes occasional technical malfunctions just as likely as moderate jackpots that do pay out.
Regardless, we hope fortune shines in Katrina Bookman’s favor and this high roller hell doesn’t taint her fighting spirit.
Lead image: Katrina Bookman via WABC