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November 20, 2017

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Calif. man loses in jackpot dispute

CARSON CITY -- The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a malfunction in a slot machine does not entitle a California man to collect a $1.8 million jackpot.

The court rejected the appeal of Cengiz Sengel of San Jose, Calif., who was playing the Quartermania progressive machine at the Silver Legacy Casino in Reno on Sept. 21, 1996. He put in two quarters and the three jackpot symbols showed. But the symbols were uneven.

The casino and International Game Technology, which manufacturers the machine, refused to pay. Sengel appealed to the state Gaming Control Board and to the District Court, which both ruled against him. He then appealed to the Supreme Court.

In a decision by Justice Myron Leavitt, the court said the reels stopped because of an internal malfunction that suspended the game. When the problem was corrected, the game was reset and a non-winning combination appeared on the reels.

The court said there was substantial evidence of the malfunction. A microswitch on the unit that accepts bills reported to the machine's monitoring system that the cash door on the slot was open. The machine immediately suspended play, according to court documents.

Sengel could not be reached for comment.

In the ruling, Leavitt wrote:

"The abrupt stop of the reels, the uneven alignment of the jackpot symbols, the tilt code in the 'winner paid' window, the maintenance light on top of the machine and the absence of jackpot lights, the continued running of the progressive jackpot amount, the lack of sirens or music coming from the slot machine, and the fact that no jackpot win registered on the inter-linked computer system all support the (gaming) board's finding that a malfunction occurred."

The court noted there was a sign on the face of the machine that says, "Malfunction voids all pays and plays."

Sengel argued the symbols need to be anywhere on the play line and do not have to be perfectly aligned. He also contended the machine did not malfunction because it acted exactly as it was designed to operate.

By stopping abruptly upon receiving an error code, the machine produced a result on the reels in a manner in which it was designed, he claimed in his pre-hearing briefs.

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