Wednesday, June 2, 1999 | 11:34 a.m.
A 49-year-old Illinois man joined an exclusive family last night when he hit a Megabucks jackpot at Caesars Palace worth $21.35 million.
It was the second-largest jackpot in Megabucks history. The largest, $27.58 million was hit in November by a 67-year-old Las Vegas resident.
"This is our 48th winner in Nevada," Rick Sorensen, public relations manager for International Game Technology, said.
IGT, based in Reno, makes the Megabucks machine. It installed the first one in 1986 and had its first winner in 1987 -- a jackpot of slightly more than $1 million.
The latest winner is described as a quiet, unmarried man who wants to keep a low profile and not have his identity released.
The self-employed business consultant put a $10 bill into a Megabucks machine at Caesars Palace at 7:30 p.m. and spun the wheels once. Three Megabucks symbols lined up, IGT spokeswoman Michelle Voelkening said.
Bells went off and a crowd began to gather.
"As soon as we could, we got him away from the machine and roped off the area," Voelkening said. "We try to isolate the winners as quickly as possible. People try to touch them for luck."
She said after the win was verified, the man was given a check.
"He said the first thing he wants to do is pay off his credit card debts," Voelkening said.
In addition to the Megabucks jackpot, the man won a secondary jackpot of about $5,000, which is paid anytime three Megabucks symbols appear in the window of the machine, whether or not they line up on the winner's line.
Voelkening said the man received a check last night for $858,042 -- the first year's Megabucks installment and the secondary jackpot.
Now he may choose to receive the rest in annual installments of $853,878.08 for the next 25 years or he may opt to take a lump-sum payment.
"In a few weeks he will get a letter explaining his options," Voelkening said.
She said he didn't mention a preference following last night's win.
She described the winner as "very entertaining, very funny, a great guy. We had a blast talking to him. But you could see him absorbing things, and he was getting nervous."
The Illinois resident is single, has no children and makes occasional trips to Las Vegas.
"Everybody handles this kind of win differently, based on their personality," Voelkening said. "He was a low-profile guy. Other people say this is my moment. Let's have some fun. It depends on the personality. Some see it as an opportunity to be on TV."
To some extent, IGT keeps in touch with winners.
"IGT has a woman in Reno, her job is to be there to answer questions for winners. We love to hear their stories. We have ongoing requests for interviews with winners. They're great people," Voelkening said.
There are 657 Megabucks machines in Nevada, as well as machines in Atlantic City and Mississippi. They are separate systems.
A spokesman for Caesars Palace noted this is the 17th jackpot worth more than $1 million that has been won at the casino.
"This is just the greatest feeling in the world," Caesars Palace Vice President of Slots Mike Tomasello said. "A player comes in, puts $10 in the machine's bill acceptor and 'Bingo!' with the first pull he wins $21 million. He's set for life."