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Jackpot ends era of MGM slot machine

25 August 2014

LAS VEGAS -- The legend of the Lion’s Share slot machine at the MGM Grand Las Vegas is at an end.

After years of hoarding its progressive jackpot and gaining international notoriety, the resort’s last three-reel slot is facing retirement after finally paying out $2.4 million Friday night.

The resort took out 49 other similar machines 15 years ago, but they had to leave that one Lion’s Share on the casino floor. The machine predates modern ticket-in-ticket-out systems. The resort has been cannibalizing old machines to keep the last Lion’s share working for years.

“I’m surprised it held together that long,” said one nearby executive.

A portion of the money played in the machine has been accumulating in the jackpot pool since the custom machines were introduced in 1990, explained Justin Andrews, executive director of slot operations for MGM Grand. Under gaming regulations, the casino could have shifted the progressive jackpot to different machines, but the resort was not allowed to keep the accumulated jackpot.

“It’s our obligation to pay that back to our customers,” Andrews said Saturday, adding that people lined up single-file everyday by the dozens to play.

Lion’s Share gathered a fan following on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet long before the jackpot hit. Internet bloggers posted and regularly updated maps of the MGM Grand casino floor indicating where the slot machine was located as it was moved around the floor.

After Wall Street Journal published an article in February about the long-dormant machine, lines of fortune-seekers at the machine stretched ever longer, the resort said.

Andrews was surprised at the cult following at first, but he said it developed organically over time. Not a day went by that someone didn’t ask about it, and he said the appeal came from the large jackpot and the fact that it was one of a kind.

Walter Misco, who has been visiting Las Vegas for 25 years, said his wife, Linda, read a story about the Lion’s Share online and told him he had to play it. He saw his window of opportunity late Friday night, put in $100 and was shocked when he won.

The Misco’s win is bringing the legend of the Lion’s Share to an end. The resort is reviewing regulatory requirements in New Hampshire to determine if the winners can take the machine home with them.

“We’re going to do our best to let them take the machine home with them, because they deserve it,” said Steve Sibella, MGM Grand’s chief operating officer.

Misco said the winnings won’t have a huge impact on their lifestyle, but will make a big difference for their children and grandchildren.

“I can’t wait to see this thing in our living room,” he said.

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