In December 2003, Clint van Loggenberg was twenty-eight years old. He was living in Port Elizabeth, a city in south-eastern South Africa and working in a hotel there. He was earning 3500 ‘Rand’ a month, about US$550. He was supporting his parents, and he was worrying about how he was going to afford to pay for his wedding. His twenty-one-year-old girlfriend, Tracy, was seven-months pregnant.
On the evening of December 14, Clint took Tracy to the Boardwalk Casino. He gave her R100—about US$16. She put her money onto a casino debit card and he put another R100 on a card for himself. Then they both started to play the 50-cent ‘slot machines.‘.
A few minutes later something happened on the machine Clint was playing. It’s difficult to be sure exactly what happened however, because Clint’s story is different from the casino management’s story.
Clint said that suddenly the lights on the machine started to flash and music started to play. At the same time, he said, a message appeared on the machine’s screen. The message said “Congratulations. You have won R1.1 million. Attendant required.” Clint said that when this happened, the woman at the next machine noticed and yelled, “You’re a millionaire!”
Exciting, happy thoughts started going through Clint’s mind right away. He thought about how he and Tracy were going to be able to have a lavish wedding and how their baby was going to be born in a private hospital. And when Tracy saw what had happened, she thought: “We’re going to be able to afford new living room furniture and lots of diapers for our baby.”
Clint said, other gamblers came running up to congratulate him. A minute later, the attendant arrived. When the attendant saw the message on the machine, he congratulated Clint too. But then, just a few seconds later, he put a key into the machine and turned it. Immediately after he did this, he told Clint that he hadn’t won anything at all. He said the machine wasn’t working properly and the message had been a mistake.
After he had been told that he hadn’t really won a big jackpot, Clint was furious. He demanded to see the manager. While he waited for the manager, he continued to gamble for a while. He used the same machine, which was working perfectly again. Then, Tracy told him she had stomach cramps, so they decided to leave.
The next day, Clint was still angry. He phoned the casino to complain about what had happened, but he couldn’t contact anyone who could deal with his complaint. When he eventually succeeded in contacting the casino management, he was told again that he hadn’t really won anything. According to the casino, because of an electronic fault, the slot machine had displayed a misleading message. That, they said, was the end of the matter.
Clint was still unhappy, however. He still felt he’d won the jackpot. He decided to hire a lawyer. Eventually, with his lawyer, Clint took his case to the East Cape Gambling and Betting Board. This governmental ‘board’ oversees all the gambling in the East Cape province of South Africa.
The board investigated the case. They considered Clint’s story and they talked to the management of the casino about what happened. The casino insisted that Clint had not won a jackpot. They said he had accidentally pushed the ‘payout’ button instead of the ‘play’ button. This accident caused an error in the machine and as a result, the machine had ‘frozen.’ When this happened the machine still had some of the money Clint had transferred to it from his debit card. It attempted to transfer the money back to Clint’s card as it is supposed to do in such cases, but it failed. So it displayed a message telling Clint to call an attendant. When the attendant came and discovered what had happened, he transferred money to Clint’s card. The casino management admitted the message should not have contained the word ‘Congratulations.’ They said the message had been changed and they apologized to Clint for having misled him.
The board produced two kinds of evidence to support their position: computer records and video tapes from surveillance cameras. Like other modern casinos, the Boardwalk uses a central computer to monitor all its slot machines. The computer records from the machine Clint was using showed that there had been no jackpot while he was playing. The video tapes showed, they said, that no lights had flashed on Clint’s machine, no music had played, and no other gamblers had crowded around to congratulate him.
When Clint and his lawyer were shown this evidence they decided to withdraw the complaint. Later, the board announced that, in their opinion, the casino had done nothing wrong. The manager of the casino, Graham Vass, was happy about the board’s decision; he said it proved the casino had high standards. He said the casino would never cheat any of its customers because it wouldn’t want to risk damaging its reputation. He also emphasized that the casino was happy to pay jackpots to customers who deserved them. He said, “Winning is part of the entertainment offered by the Boardwalk.
Even though Clint withdrew his complaint after seeing the evidence, he continued to insist that he had been cheated and that he deserved the jackpot. He said the evidence didn’t mean much because it didn’t show what really happened.
- information from: The Sunday Times, (Johannesburg, South Africa), 03.12.28 (Nick Padayachee); The Herald Online, (Port Elizabeth, South Africa) ) (04.02.02) (Mawande Jack); The Herald Online, (date unknown) (Sam Mkokeli)