Thursday, Jan. 27, 2000 | 11:13 a.m.
By Ed Koch
and Gary Thompson
Here are the top five Megabucks jackpots, who hit them, when and where:
1. $34,955,489: Anonymous, Jan. 27, 2000, at the Desert Inn.
2. $27.6 million: Anonymous 67-year-old Las Vegas woman, Nov. 15, 1998, at the Palace Station.
3. $21.3 million: Anonymous 49-year-old Illinois man, June 1, 1999, at Caesars Palace.
4. $12.5 million: Suzanne Henley of Las Vegas, April 14, 1997, at the New York-New York.
5. $11.9 million: John Howard Tippin of Honolulu, Jan. 27, 1996, at the Las Vegas Hilton.
A Las Vegas cocktail waitress who couldn't get the show tickets she wanted Wednesday wound up with a far bigger hit -- a world record slot jackpot of nearly $35 million she won on a Megabucks machine at the Desert Inn.
Make that ex-waitress, as the winner is expected to appear at a press conference at the Desert Inn this afternoon rather than show up for her job at another Strip hotel.
The woman, who hasn't released her name for publication, hit the jackpot just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. She was the lone player on a bank of six Megabucks machines near the Desert Inn coffee shop.
The waitress, accompanied by a male companion and another couple, had gone to the Desert Inn after failing to get tickets for a show at another Strip property.
Surveillance tapes showed she sat down at a Megabucks machine, which requires players to invest $3 per spin to hit the top jackpot. The woman lost $21, put some more money into the machine, and threw up her arms as the three Megabucks symbols lined up on the machine's display after just two more spins.
Ed Rogich, vice president of Megabucks maker International Game Technology, said the winner may disclose her identity this afternoon. "Right now," he said this morning, "she's trying to gather her thoughts and discuss things with her family."
The official amount of Wednesday night's jackpot was $34,955,489.56. The winner received a check for $1,402,188.58 early today after IGT engineers verified the win.
She has 60 to 90 days to decide whether to take payments in annual installments over the next 25 years or receive a lump sum of about 60 percent of the total, or $20.97 million -- before taxes.
Either way, the winner will soon be hearing from the IRS, which will treat her winnings as ordinary income subject to the maximum tax rate of 39.6 percent.
She'll also be the likely target of prize brokers who offer discounted lump sum payments to jackpot and lottery winners who get paid over 20 years or more. The brokers then resell such structured payouts to institutional investors such as John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., SunAmerica Inc. and Great West Life & Annuity Insurance Co.
"We are absolutely thrilled the Desert Inn is now home to the world's largest slot jackpot," said Mark Lefever, chief operating officer of the resort. "As we prepare for our 50th anniversary in April, it is only appropriate that the newest Megabucks millionaire be christened at this historic property."
Wednesday's jackpot topped the previous world record of $27.6 million won at Palace Station Nov. 15, 1998, by a 67-year-old Las Vegas woman who requested anonymity.
The main Megabucks jackpot now has been hit 49 times, paying off more than $302 million. The game builds from a base amount of $7 million, with each spin adding a few pennies to the top jackpot. The odds against hitting the top prize are about 49.8 million to 1.
The last time the big jackpot had been hit was on June 1, 1999, at Caesars Palace when 49-year-old Illinois man who has remained anonymous collected $21.3 million.
Winners are required to reveal their name to IGT and prove they are of the legal minimum gambling age of 21, but aren't required to announce to the world who they are.
There are more than 700 Megabucks machines in more than 150 Nevada casinos.
Rogich has said in the past that Megabucks play is significantly greater -- possibly two or three times greater -- as a record jackpot approaches or is established than it is when the progressive jackpot is reset to $7 million after a jackpot is hit.
Should a Megabucks winner die before receiving all 25 payments, the installments continue to go to the winner's heirs.
IGT and the casinos split a hefty sum left behind by the many players who don't win. In the 12 months through last October, about $584.5 million was wagered and about $525.1 million was collected in small and large jackpots by players.
The remaining $59.4 million was split by IGT and the casinos, with IGT using part of its $29.7 million share for annuity funding of the main jackpots, system support and maintenance of the machines.
In 1997, IGT installed Super Megabucks machines in Nevada casinos. The progressive payout for those four-reel slots start at $10 million each time a jackpot is hit.