Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003 | 11:09 a.m.
Slot players Margaret and Dan Healy said Monday third place would be just fine with them.
They were among the many slot players who were hoping to hit the Megabucks jackpot of $26.7 million, the third largest Megabucks prize in the 16-year history of the game.
At $26.7 million and counting, it's the third highest total in history and a million away from moving into second place on the list.
As he took several tries on a Megabucks machine at the Sunset Station in Henderson, Dan Healy said it was high enough for him and his wife. It always is he said.
"We play Megabucks at least a couple spins" whenever they get the chance, he said.
Martha Skaggs, a certified nurse's assistant at Summerlin Hospital, on the other hand just happened to play the machine Monday.
"I wanted to get lucky tonight," she said.
"We're here for the movies," her friend, Alex Seevern, said.
Skaggs and Seevern had gone to Sunset Station to see "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," and couldn't pass up a $3 spin on Megabucks while they were there.
The two had agreed to share the Megabucks jackpot if either won.
Doubling their tries at the prize didn't help them overcome the odds of one in 16.7 million, however. A person has a better chance of being struck by lightning than of winning the Megabucks grand prize.
The last win in Nevada was May 27, 2002, when $22.6 million went to Johanna Heundl at Bally's on the Las Vegas Strip.
The largest Megabucks prize was $34.9 million, won on Jan. 26, 2000, at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.
The second largest payoff occurred at Palace Station on Nov. 15, 1998.
The hype and interest that snowballs for large Megabucks prizes is similar to that of large Powerball jackpots, and slot players and lottery bettors have a lot in common, said Shannon Bybee, director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"Lottery players are more likely to be slot players," Bybee said.
"What you could lose in 15 minutes at a table, you can play for quite a while on a slot machine," Bybee said.
In a lottery, it is the convenience and the idea of benefiting either a state or education fund, he said.
When Megabucks was launched in March 1986, it was designed to compete with state lotteries, Bybee said. Today Megabucks connects 670 slot machines in 158 Nevada casinos to a top jackpot that builds from a base amount of $7 million.
"When it starts building you see articles in the press and more people pay attention to it," Bybee said.
A former casino executive and Gaming Control Board member, Bybee said that it takes a lot of money to interest people, once the first big wins hit. "We become desensitized to it," he said.
Stations Casinos, for example, is adding the slots to several of its properties, public relations director Lesley Pittman said. "And we've seen more play," she noted.
But at the Stardust on the Strip play has been flat.
"There's been no unusual amount of play on Megabucks," said Jim Seagrave, director of public relations at the Stardust. "That surprised me."
He figures that will change as more people learn the size of the jackpot and as the jackpot continues to grow.