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Ask the Slot Expert: Pressing someone's buttons can win you a jackpot

15 December 2021

Question: I have two friends that went to Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, CA. Friend #1 sits at slot and starts playing and goes to bonus round of 8 spins. On the second bonus spin she hits the GRAND JACKPOT of $15,700. She gets dizzy and feels like passing out. Then moves from chair and friend #2 sits on chair and finishes the other six spins.

When claiming the prize casino says the friend #2 according to video cameras was sitting on chair and friend #1 couldn't claim prize. And now friend #2 wants half of the prize. The friend #2 name was put on the ticket that was given to them.

Reminder friend #1 was her money and she pushed the button that gave the Grand Prize.

What steps should friend #1 do to have the casino review the video tapes? Or all prizes are final? Also, they were banned from the casino for 30 days for more than one person pressing the slot machine. So unable to claim prize for 30 days.

Thank you for your time. Waiting for guidance.

Answer: Wow. This is a mess. Your friend has a problem. My guidance is to get an attorney. She's going to need one.

Banned for 30 days because two people played a machine? I'm always amazed at what some casinos outside Las Vegas do to their players who commit misdemeanors against their rules.

Casinos are one of the most heavily surveilled public spaces. That said, not every machine has a dedicated camera to record everything that happens on it. A group of machines may be covered by one camera and surveillance may zoom in on a particular machine only if they have a reason to suspect that something improper or unusual is happening on it.

From what you said, it sounds like the casinos has already reviewed the footage. Perhaps it can't tell from the footage when the jackpot hit to verify that friend #1 pressed the button for that spin. The angle may not clearly show the results of the spins -- though I find it hard to believe that they couldn't see the orgasmic displays most machines put on for significant wins.

In any case, casinos have a simple rule about who wins at a slot machine. They don't know anything about any financial arrangements two or more players may have made. Their rule is that the person who pressed the button wins the jackpot.

Another reason sometimes given for why jackpots go to the button pusher is that pushing the button is actually making the wager. Consider this: What if you press the Bet 1 button and I press the Spin button? Isn't pressing the Bet 1 button making the wager? I've never seen a machine that lets you undo a Bet 1 press. Pressing Spin does initiate the resolution of the wager, but it was irrevocably made at Bet 1. Who should get the jackpot in this case?

Another problem is raised if we use the he-who-made-the-wager rationale. In your case, friend #2 started pressing the button in the midst of a free game bonus round. Let me emphasize FREE. Friend #2 was not making any wagers. The spin that initiated the bonus round had the last wager made on the machine and friend #1 pressed the button on that spin.

I think a player who didn't hit the Spin button might be able to raise a legitimate case when the he-who-made-the-wager rationale is used. For that reason, I think the best rationale to use is he-who-initiated-the-game wins the jackpot. I, the casino, don't know -- or want to know -- anything about your financial arrangements, playing agreements, whatever. The one thing I can verify on my own is who pressed the Spin button and that's the person I'll pay.

That raises the problem of a bonus round that consists of multiple spins that have to be initiated individually with the winnings aggregated and awarded at the conclusion of the round. What happens when the person controlling the Spin button changes mid-round? This scenario didn't exist decades ago when casinos first set the he-who-pressed-it-gets-it rule. Maybe we should say the-last-person-who-pressed-it-gets-it.

This reminds me of the analysis talking heads on news programs sometimes give about court decisions. Sometimes one side loses because it had a faulty argument for its position, not because its position was wrong. The casino has a problem if it justifies he-who-pressed-it-gets-it because that person made the wager because there are situations in which pressing the Spin button does not make a wager.

Did you know that slot machines have their own version of a dead-man switch? It's actually a Bizarro world dead-man switch. On a piece of machinery, if the operator releases the dead-man switch, the machinery will stop operating to prevent a runaway condition if the operator should become incapacitated.

Interactive bonus rounds have their own dead-man switches. In this case, the machine is waiting for the player to do something, e.g., choose an icon on the screen, press the Spin button. If the player still hasn't done the required action after a certain length of time, the machine will do it for him. If the player had to make a selection, the machine will use the RNG to choose one of the items at random.

I think your friend's attorney should immediately contact the casino to ensure it preserves the video coverage from the time in question. Perhaps the attorney can request that the casino re-review all coverage available to confirm that friend #1 pressed the button on the jackpot-winning spin.

Best case scenario is that friend #1 gets paid for the spins she initiated and friend #2 gets paid for the spins she initiated. (Well, best case is that friend #1 gets all the money, but I don't think that will happen because of the she-who-pressed-it-gets-it rule.)

The most likely outcome, I believe, is that the casino will pay friend #2 (who was no right to any of the money -- not even any of the money won on the spins she initiated, as far as I'm concerned) and friend #1 will have to sue friend #2 to get the money. Friend #1 should reduce the amount she is seeking by the taxes friend #2 paid on the money.

Actually, there's another best case scenario. Friend #2 accepts the money and files IRS Form 5754 (Statement by Person(s) Receiving Gambling Winnings) to declare that she is not the actual winner and hands over all of the money to friend #1.

The lesson here is that you should never let another person play for you unless you have a written agreement about how you are going to handle the winnings.

It's no consolation, but your friend is not the only one who has had a similar problem. He lost a slot machine jackpot because his friend pushed the button.

Let us know how this ends.


Let's say you are going to play a multi-denominational machine and you want to bet $5 per spin. The max bet at the lowest denomination (pennies) is $5 and the minimum bet at the highest denomination (dimes) is also $5. Which will you play and why? Maximum bet at minimum denomination or minimum bet at maximum denomination?

Drop me a line at email address at the bottom of this page.


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John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots