Las Vegas has and always will be the spiritual home of gambling. Every year, millions of tourists flock to the Nevada desert resort to try to win a huge stack of cash. Sin City is renowned for its nightlife – the majority of the casinos are open 24 hours, attracting people at all hours, much like the Wigan Pier Casino back in the day. But it stands to reason that not all of the estimated 39 million visitors to Vegas will go home with a jackpot – in fact, hardly any do, and there are some things in Vegas you should never do.
However, there’ve been a few huge wins in recent years that give some of the large numbers of gambling tourists something to aspire towards. Let’s look at some of the gamblers who’ve managed to come away from Sin City with some hefty funds in their back pocket.
You might not readily associate slot machines with massive jackpot winners, but you might after reading this. World War Two veteran Elmer Sherwin always had a penchant for gambling and casinos, and at the age of 75 he visited the Mirage Hotel and Casino with his wife.
Sherwin had only ever played the $1 slot machines. You know, the Liberty Bells, which Charles Fey invented? Arriving in Vegas, Sherwin set himself a weekly budget of $100. However, pretty soon into his stay in the Mirage casino he had eaten up his budget on the Megabucks slot. Eager to win big, he asked his wife for $20 and proceeded to bet $3 a spin, which managed to earn him a cool $4.6 million.
A keen traveller, Sherwin used his winnings to travel the world with his wife – and took with him a photo of his win to tell everyone he met. That win didn’t satiate Sherwin’s lust for slot machines, and in 2005 he visited the Cannery Casino in Las Vegas – and won again on the Megabucks. This time round he won more than five times his original amount and pocketed a tidy $21 million.
Instead of travelling around the world with his new earnings, Sherwin donated most of his money to charity before he passed away in 2007, aged 93. The lucky slot spinner had planned to become a big winner for the third time, but unfortunately was not able to complete his ambition. But, you know – enough’s enough.
The mystery man
Not everyone wants to go public when they win a large amount of money, which is wise really when you consider how many requests for cash you’d receive from jealous friends, family and acquaintances.
That was the case when a 25-year-old man tipped up at the Excalibur Casino in Vegas while he was waiting for a basketball game to start. Barely an hour later he left the casino with a haul of $39 million – choosing to receive his winnings as a $1.5 million a year pay-out for the next 25 years.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, ‘money doesn’t make you happy’ then John Tippin is the perfect example of that assertion. In 1996, postal worker Tippin made the trip to Las Vegas and – just like Elmer Sherwin – headed straight for the Megabucks slot machine.
All of a sudden he won $12 million, which at the time was the largest slot machine pay-out in history. However his win didn’t make him happy, suddenly his life was more complicated and his new found wealth posed him more questions than answers.
Would he invest his money? Which family members would he gift a portion of his wealth to and why? Would he squander his new found fortune? Would it be mean of him to not donate any to charity, and if he did, how would he choose the right charity?
These questions posed Tippin so much trouble that he actually penned a book called ‘I Did It’, chronicling the terrible state that his massive jackpot had left his life in.
Perhaps it was the finest humble brag ever. We doubt that winning a $12 million jackpot would have such a negative effect on our lives, but if it did, surely you’d just give all the money away and stop moaning about it?
Yet again a Megabucks winner, this time 71-year-old Amy Nishimura walked away from Fremont casino with $9 million one day before her birthday, on Christmas Eve. Shortly after having her breakfast Nishimura headed to the slot machine, and the rest is history. She said: “On the way to breakfast I had seen the wall with all the pictures of people who had won jackpots at the Fremont and thought to myself, ‘I want to be up there’, and then I was.”
After putting $100 into the $1 machine Nishimura won the jackpot with $37 left in her account – and cashed that out as well before raising the monster cheque above her head.
In 2004, an English gambler from Maidstone, Kent, sold all his possessions and belongings before heading to Las Vegas to bet it all on red. Revell even changed his name to Ashley Blue Square Revell in a sponsorship deal with the UK bookmakers to raise more funds.
When he arrived in Las Vegas he bet $135,500 on red and, sure enough, the ball landed on 7 red, netting Revell the sum of $270,600. The Kent native went on to spend his winnings on forming a now-defunct online poker company called Poker UTD.
Despite his unfortunate turn of circumstances, his experience was adapted to many TV mini-series and was apparently the inspiration behind Simon Cowell’s game show Red or Black which was fronted by the comedy duo Ant & Dec which made four people millionaires in the first season.
MIT Blackjack Team
This one isn’t strictly legitimate, and you certainly shouldn’t try and follow their lead, but over a period of 20 years the MIT Blackjack Team won an estimated $100 million in Las Vegas and Atlantic City as they used their sophisticated card counting system to scam casinos.
The MIT Blackjack team consisted of a series of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had specialised in mathematics. Their success was written into American folk lore and Kevin Spacey went on to play the lead role in a feature film released about them.
So as you can see, huge wins are possible in Vegas. If you’re in the right place at the right time, when you’re luck’s in, there’s probably not many other places you’d rather be – unless you just want to play online casino from home, of course.