Friday, Jan. 28, 2000 | 10:36 a.m.
Cynthia Jay thought 21 was a lucky number, but after Wednesday night she prefers 27.
Jay, a cocktail waitress at the Monte Carlo, won nothing on her usual $21 play on a Megabucks slot machine at the Desert Inn Wednesday. But then she put in another $6, bringing her investment to $27 and changing her life.
"I played the first $3 of the $6 and nothing happened, then I played the last $3 and I couldn't believe it," Jay said at a press conference Thursday. "I looked at it, but it wasn't making any noise and I wondered if I had won, then I realized what had happened and threw my arms into the air."
About 90 minutes later it was confirmed by International Game Technology employees that Jay, 37, had indeed won a world record slot jackpot of $34,955,489.56 at one of six Megabucks machines near the Desert Inn coffee shop.
While technicians were validating the record win, Jay was whisked upstairs with boyfriend Terry Brennan to an 8,000-square-foot suite that the Desert Inn gave them for the night.
"We gave them one of our best suites with its own pool and Jacuzzi," said Mark Lefever, chief operating officer of the resort. "I spent about three hours with them toasting with Cristal (champagne) and eating caviar, and they are very down-to-earth, nice people."
Lefever was one of many Desert Inn and IGT employees called to the resort after the jackpot was hit. Lefever was taking a dip in his hot tub and drinking some wine when he got the call.
"A slot supervisor and security called me at the same time," Lefever said. "That's pretty rare, but when I found out what had happened I was excited."
Jay and Brennan had just seen a performance by singer-impressionist Bob Anderson at the Desert Inn and were waiting for another couple they went to the show with when Jay sat down for a few pulls at the winning machine.
When it comes to money, Jay describes herself as miserly and says she only gambles around $40 every now and then. Jay, who moved to Las Vegas in 1979, said she plans on using the money to take care of her family, and plans to share her winnings with Brennan.
"I come from a very large family, and I thought I'd have to work the rest of my life like my family has done," Jay said. "Now I can take care of them."
Jay, who has five sisters and three brothers, said she has thought often about winning Megabucks.
"I was always wishing that I would win and thinking about what I'd do if I did," she said. "I thought if I ever won I'd take my whole family on a cruise, and now we can go."
Jay was given a check for $1,402,188.58 as her first prize payment.
"It's a little bigger than what I get for cocktail waitressing," Jay said of the check. "Now if I go back to the Monte Carlo, it won't be to work."
Jay 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.
The IRS will take the maximum tax rate of 39.6 percent from Jay's winnings.
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.
Jay said she always planned to come forward if she won the money.
"I figure you can't really hide millions of dollars," she said. "I'm not going to say that this kind of money won't bring some changes, but the same people who were in my life before are in my life now."
Jay's winning spin was the 49th time the main Megabucks jackpot has been hit, paying off more than $302 million since its inception in 1986. The game builds from a base amount of $7 million, with each spin adding a few pennies to the top jackpot, that can only be won with a $3 bet. The odds against hitting the top prize are about 49.8 million to 1.
There are more than 700 Megabucks machines in more than 150 Nevada casinos.