Megabucks

We are told this is movie producer Mark Hodos from Florida, the latest Nevada Megabucks winner of $10.3 million (Image: IGT)

There must be something in the air in the desert at this time of year. Last year in mid-December, a woman playing an International Game Technologies’ Megabucks slot machine used gaming credits earned to hit a $17.3  million jackpot at the M Casino; now a Florida man has hit a $10.3 million one at the MGM Grand during the same week this year. An executive producer of “All American Christmas Carol” – a sort of trailer trash version of the Dickens classic, it would appear – winner Mark Hodos says the moolah will go back into his Hollywood production company. Although we see no mention of him on the film’s IMDb, but we are naturally cynical and if this guy says “Hollywood,” then we say “Bollywood.”

If he’s legitimately a producer, then way to save yourself numerous grovelling L.A. investor pitch meetings, sir.

Two in a Row

Hodos’ win followed a player who hit the Megabucks this November as well, also at the MGM Grand, which is the biggest casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The Megabucks slot machines are all on the same  IGT Nevada pipeline, making for very large payouts, with minimums of $10 million – and more added as it doesn’t get hit.

With no official state lottery per se, Megabucks is considered the equivalent, and during its 19-year history in Nevada, has brought numerous millionaires into existence. It’s also the basis for many urban legends, including the one that always seems to sit in the shadows with any lottery win: the onset of very bad luck.

One piece of bad luck that can’t be avoided is Uncle Sam’s greedy paws in the pot. Based on a $35-million win, it’s estimated that winners will only get an initial check of about $1.4 million. The big winner then has up to 90 days to determine if they want to get the balance in annual installments, which will be paid out over 25 years, or take a lump sum which will be only 60 percent of the actual win total; based on that $35 million, that would come out to “just” $21 million, so obviously most Megabucks winners go for Option #1.

A Pound of Flesh to the Feds, Of Course

Don’t go shopping for a Beverly Hills estate just yet though; because the minimum tax rate on that annual income will still be 40 percent; at least Nevada doesn’t have a state income tax, which someone who won the California Megabucks would have to pay as well, for example. So on your $35 million, that’s $13,400,000 going towards some very nice IRS Xmas parties over the next  25 years.

And you’re left with $20,100,000, or a measly $804,000 net (more or less) per year for the next 25  years. Suddenly it’s not as life-changing as it seemed, is it?

Regardless, people keep on playing Megabucks and dreaming large; that November MGM Grand winner hit for $12.46 million, explaining why Hodos’ subsequent win was so “small”.

IGT says it has paid out more than $728 million in total jackpots since 1986 in Nevada, and more than a billion dollars nationwide.

How Do You Play Megabucks Anyway?

If reading about these wins (despite their downfalls) has gotten Megabucks fever going in you, here’s what you need to know: the progressive jackpot is a dollar slot machine that requires a minimum of $3.00 to be eligible to hit the jackpot. After each win, the jackpot auto-resets to $10 million; reports are that that may soon be bumped up to $11 million.

IGT – the company on whose machines Megabucks runs – has some 750 slot machines in about 136 casinos throughout the Silver State. IGT owns these machines, giving each casino a piece of the action, based on profits per machine. Unlike many lotteries, this one is single state and for Nevada only, although IGT does have other Megabucks jackpots in California, New Jersey and Mississippi, as well as on several Indian reservations. Because none of these states have as many casino venues as Nevada, however – or as much hype – the jackpots tend to be on the smaller side.

With a Random Number Generator (RNG) controlling who wins, once the jackpot is hit on one machine, all other machines in the system will be instantaneously notified and reset to the base jackpot again.

Odds of winning Megabucks vary, depending on who you ask; ranging from 1 in 17 million up to 1 in 50 million. And one bit of hype that Megabucks can’t seem to shake are those tales of woe that befall all winners, according to lore.

Some of these rumors may be based on a true story; that of 37-year-old cocktail waitress Cynthia Jay-Brennan, who hit Megabucks back in 2000 for $34. 9 million. A mere six weeks later, a drunk driver hit her car, leaving  her sister dead and Jay-Brennan a quadriplegic. Of course, plenty of people who haven’t won Megabucks have had the same fate and no money to help them, but logic never stopped a good urban legend from kicking up dust.

Others who supposedly kicked it due to winning Megabucks included a 25-year-old winner in 2003, although IGT- who can protect winners’ identities, unlike actual state lotteries – claims the now 35-year-old is still among the living and doing just fine.