Gambling couple hits the $11 million jackpot malfunction

June 2, 2010
photo - Jim and Maryann McMahon don't know if they won $1,627 or $11 million on a Cripple Creek slot machine. Jim has a picture of the slot on his phone.   Photo by  KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE
Jim and Maryann McMahon don't know if they won $1,627 or $11 million on a Cripple Creek slot machine. Jim has a picture of the slot on his phone. Photo by KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE 

Maryann and Jim McMahon had a wild night Tuesday at the Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek.

They woke up Wednesday from a quarter-slots hangover wondering if they were multimillionaires or mere thousandaires.

Due to a machine malfunction, they’ll likely have to wonder for several weeks if their progressive slot jackpot is $11 million — or $1,627.

Guess which they want?

No matter. Wildwood general manager Kevin Werner’s bet is on the $1,627.

“That machine doesn’t pay out $11,000,” he said. “Certainly not $11 million.”

The McMahons are having fun dreaming, anyway. And Jim, 69, a retired Army band drummer who sells cars at Phil Long Ford, is going to keep dreaming of Mai Tai cocktails in Tahiti until told otherwise.

The couple are casino regulars, with her winnings often covering his losses. As he puts it: “She’s the golden arm.”

But Tuesday’s slot marathon was up-and-down for “Golden Arm” Maryann. And the downs were winning. She was about ready to call it quits when, suddenly, four flaming red 7s formed a diamond on the screen of her Blazing Sevens machine.

“The bells started going on, ringing like crazy,” she said.

A crowd gathered. The machine lit up. Red digital numbers formed $1,627.82.

Then, a long string of yellow numbers appeared: $11,000,600.01.

The amounts flashed back-and-forth.

“It sure looked nice,” said Jim McMahon, who snapped pictures with his cell phone. “Eleven million, six hundred dollars. And one cent.”

“The machine said $11 million,” Werner confirmed. “It should have reset at $500.”

Not only that: Reset numbers are yellow, he said. Jackpot numbers are red.

So, the $11 million wasn’t ever really an option. But try telling that to a nice couple with 14 great-grandkids to spoil.

Werner suspects a computer error of some sort. Slot machines get a mind of their own sometimes. It happened in Central City in March, when a slot showed a $42 million jackpot. That gambler got sent away with about $20 and a free dinner.

The McMahons also got dinner on the house. And they’ll get an overnight trip back to Wildwood to collect their prize. The amount will determined by the Colorado Division of Gaming when autopsy results are in on the slot’s electronic innards.

“At the very least, regardless, we’ll pay them about $1,600 and change,” Werner said. “I would have liked to give them the $1,600 so they could have the thrill of victory.”

The couple had other thrills.

“We were celebrities for a while,” Jim McMahon said.

And, he added: “I won a big $25.”

Contact the writer at 636-0253.

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