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America's Newest Millionaire Wins Slot Tournament in New Orleans

12 November 1999

Some pushed, some pulled and some prayed, but in the end, Mary Jane Knipp of Fredericksburg, Texas, became America's newest millionaire after winning the world's richest slot machine tournament Monday at Harrah's recently opened New Orleans Casino.

Knipp, a 65-year-old retired teacher and coach, captured the $1 million grand prize at the Harrah's Millionaire Maker National Championship of Slots. She beat out 104 other finalists from more than 25 states, who advanced to the New Orleans finals from 13 regional tournaments.

After three 15-minute rounds of play, Knipp emerged with 44,813 points to capture the winner-take-all $1 million grand prize. (The prize is paid over 20 years in annual installments of $50,000.)

The tournament came down to the wire, with several participants scoring more than 40,000 points. In the end, Knipp edged the second-place competitor by just 1,500 points, making this among the most competitive tournaments to date.

"It's so exciting, I'm just kind of blind," Knipp said shortly after being announced as the winner. "I didn't really think I'd have $1 million at this point in my life. It's so wonderful."

The contest began earlier this year with a field of more than 3,000 participants who played in qualifying tournaments held at Harrah's properties across the country. Knipp, who says she has taught "at just about every high school in Texas" and for years coached track and basketball, was one of the top winners at the qualifying tournament held at Harrah's Tunica.

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