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Flap Over Jackpot Comes Full Circle Casino Reverses Decision, Pays Jackpot

Thu., Jan. 15, 1998, midnight

Three months after the slot machine she fed $100 worth of quarters locked on a row of cherries, a retired farm worker is finally getting her $330,000 jackpot.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, on an Indian reservation just south of Phoenix, had voided the prize because of what it said was a computer glitch in the machine.

Herminia Rodriquez, 64, took her case to the media last week, and she said that helped push Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. to pay up.

“By myself, I could have never gotten it done,” she said Tuesday.

Rodriquez said the money will help send her 10 grandchildren to college and ensure that a 22-year-old granddaughter who has kidney problems receives dialysis.

“They are going to have an opportunity that I never did have,” said Rodriquez, a retired migrant worker from Texas.

Casino general manager Janet Beronio said business may have dropped off slightly because of the dispute but denied the media attention affected the decision.

When Rodriquez first won the jackpot, casino employees gave her balloons, candy and a free meal. Harrah’s said it decided to honor the jackpot because of that celebration.

‘We created an emotional expectation through those celebrations, and satisfying these expectations with the payment she thought she won is the appropriate thing to do,” said Phillip G. Satre, president of the Memphis, Tenn.-based company.

However, he added, “Under regulations in every jurisdiction in the United States, a malfunctioning machine is proper cause for disqualifying any jackpot.”

The case underscored Arizona’s lack of authority to intervene in disputes between Indian tribes and gamblers.

State Gaming Director Gary Husk said the resolution “goes a long way toward restoring the public’s confidence in Indian gaming within the state of Arizona.”

Rodriquez said she had no hard feelings toward the casino and might even gamble there again: “They’re paying me. Why not?”

Tags: gambling

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