If a bug in a slot machine says you've won $41.8m, can you claim it? Not in the case of Pauline McKee, 90, denied the payout after Iowa's supreme court sided with the house.
While playing Miss Kitty, a modern, high-tech casino game, she scored a 185 credit win worth $1.85. An on-screen message, however, told her she'd also won the massive bonus. The casino refused to pay out, claiming a malfunction, and the machine was secured for inspection, according to the summary judgment issued Friday.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission commissioned independent tests, which found that the machine was programmed to allow bonuses up to $100,000, and that anything beyond that was a bug. The vendor, Aristocrat Technologies, said that it was aware of the fault, had warned casinos to disable the bonus feature, and blamed "component degradation over time" for its occurrence.
The IRGC—and lower courts—nonetheless concluded that operators are not liable for payouts caused by malfunctions. The Iowa Supreme Court agreed, writing that "the rules of the game formed a contract between the patron and the casino, and the patron was not entitled to the bonus under those rules" and citing a prominent warning that "MALFUNCTION VOIDS ALL PAYS AND PLAYS."
That McKee hadn't read the rules was not the Casino's problem: "It is sufficient that those rules were readily accessible to her and she had an opportunity to read them."
The machine's flaws apparently made it impossible for investigators to figure out exactly how the bonus was generated, but all they needed to do was prove that it wasn't generated according to the game's rules.
The logs on the machine do indicate that it thought it received a legacy bonus.
1 However, in reviewing the legacy bonusing aspect of SAS [the casino’s “slot accounting system”] it was noticed that the SAS legacy bonus command can send a bonus up to $99999.99, which is far less than was awarded by the game. Furthermore, the system does not support legacy bonusing. As a result, it appears the SPC board [hardware inside the Miss Kitty machine] erroneously determined that it received a legacy bonus award from the system and sent it to the game.
In conclusion, GLI was unable to definitively determine the exact cause of the erroneous bonus award. However, it is apparent, based on the reviewed information that the bonus award was not valid. Unfortunately, given the lack of conclusive evidence, GLI cannot confidently speculate as to how the bonus amount was received and displayed at the gaming machine in question. However, it is highly likely that the erroneous message originated from the SPC 2.0 communication board and was then relayed to the game.
Indeed, the existence of the rules means that whether the machine malfunctioned or not doesn't come into it, at least not in this case's circumstances:
It is only necessary to reach the malfunction defense if McKee otherwise could receive an award under the terms of the contract. Hypothetically, if the casino declined to pay an award that was otherwise payable based on the alignment of the symbols, the casino would then have to establish that the slot machine had a technical malfunction in order to avoid paying the award.
You can play Miss Kitty at home on iOS, Windows, Mac and other systems.
Here's a video of it in action, running on an actual slot machine.
PAULINE McKEE vs ISLE OF CAPRI [PDF]