Nevada's progressive slot machine jackpot nears record

RENO -- Somewhere, in some Nevada casino, there's a slot machine that's going to make someone very, very rich.

Players stuffing dollars into Nevada's Megabucks machines were expected to push the jackpot past the all-time record of $34.9 million on Wednesday.

The jackpot stood at an estimated $34.7 million Wednesday evening but by Thursday gamblers were expected to be playing for $35 million, International Game Technology spokesman Rick Sorensen said. Reno-based IGT developed the Megabucks system, which links the dollar slot machines in 157 casinos throughout Nevada.

Dreams of becoming a multimillionaire are luring people and their money to casinos.

"It generates intense interest in Megabucks," Station Casinos spokeswoman Gina Lateef said. "People are stacked two or three deep in some cases."

Sorensen said it's impossible to estimate current daily play, but it's far above normal.

"When it reaches a certain level -- $13 million to $15 million -- play really begins to go up. Now that people know we're closing in on a world record, it really, really goes up," he said.

The jackpot starts at $7 million and increases each time a machine is played. It has been building since a retiree and widow from Covina, Calif., hit the third-largest slot payoff ever May 27, 2002, tapping a machine at Bally's hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip for $22.6 million.

Johanna Heundl, 74, was staying at Bally's after having been awarded two free nights for her birthday.

The world-record slot jackpot was a $35 million Megabucks win in January 2000 at the now-closed Desert Inn Resort in Las Vegas. Cynthia Jay, a cocktail server at the Monte Carlo Hotel invested $27 in the Megabucks machine before lining up three lucky Mega logos.

It will be the 58th Megabucks jackpot since a California man hit a payoff of $4.99 million in February 1987 at Harrah's Reno, IGT spokeswoman Connie Fox said.

It takes a $3 bet to hit the progressive jackpot, although the machines pay out smaller amounts if symbols other than the Megabucks logos fall on the pay line.

The big jackpot is paid out in equal amounts over 25 years. Winners can negotiate other payoffs with IGT, including a lump sum, Sorensen said, although the amount is less than the full jackpot.


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