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BetMGM is the market leader for online casino in Michigan, as it is nationally. Less than six months since that market opened, however, the company may be finding itself fighting a court battle.
A Detroit woman, Jacqueline Davis, alleged the online gambling operator owes her roughly $3 million in winnings and is refusing to pay. By her account of things, she ran her account balance up to $11 million over the course of five almost-sleepless days (with a one-day break in the middle) playing Luck O’ the Roulette by Win Studios. The St. Patrick’s themed game was available on BetMGM for a limited time in March.
After hitting that impressive eight-figure peak, she began to lose, she said. Once her balance was threatening to dip below $3 million, she said decided to quit while she was still very much ahead. That’s when things got interesting, according to Davis’ story.
Withdrawing such a large sum isn’t as simple as everyday online gambling transactions. For smaller amounts, players can simply use online banking, PayPal or the like.
Davis said she began by visiting the MGM Grand in person, and asking to withdraw at the cage. She said received $100,000 as an advance on the full balance. Coming back the following day for more, she said she was denied.
Like all gambling products, Luck O’ the Roulette came with a disclaimer that “malfunction voids all pays and plays.” BetMGM told her that her winnings were the result of a glitch in the game and therefore not valid.
Luck O’ Roulette is no longer available on BetMGM Casino, but would have been taken down by this point anyway, since it was a seasonal offering. It’s unclear if it will be back again next year.
Davis says BetMGM offered to let her keep the $100,000 she had already been given, on condition of silence. She alleges a company representative offered her an additional $23,000 in cash or $75,000 in site credit, but told her that she would have to sign an agreement not to reveal what had transpired, with harsh financial penalties if word got out.
Unwilling to accept that offer, hired a lawyer, David Steingold, and went straight to the media. Her story was first reported by Fox 2 Detroit.
It’s unclear whether the next step will be to go straight to court, or first seek an investigation by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB). A MGCB representative told PlayMichigan that they had not heard of the Board receiving a complaint from Davis, which would ordinarily be the logical first step for anyone having an issue with a casino in the state.
Either way, historical precedent is not on Davis’s side. Stories like this come up every year or two, usually involving retail slot machines. Courts have occasionally ruled that the casinos owe something to the players. However, the usual outcome is that the standard disclaimer is deemed valid and the plaintiffs walk away empty-handed.
Rule 645 of the MGCB’s framework for iGaming states:
An internet gaming operator or internet gaming platform provider may not void a completed internet wager without board approval unless a void is necessary to resolve an internet gaming platform or internet game error or malfunction
The most notable similar case in recent memory took place in 2017, involving a New York woman named Katrina Bookman. It stands out due to the exceptional sum involved, which was nearly $43 million.
The New York State Gaming Commission declared that an “obvious malfunction,” based on the fact that the maximum payout for the machine in question was listed as $6,500 and the screen was not displaying a jackpot-winning pattern of symbols when it announced the win.
Though the odds don’t look good for Davis, it will be an interesting case to keep tabs on. There are two features that make the case substantially different from previous ones. The first is that the game took place online. This may or may not matter, but the regulatory rules for online casinos in Michigan are separate from those for retail establishments.
The more important difference is that it involved numerous wins spread out over five days of play, rather than a single jackpot. This fact seems likely to get a lot of attention in court, should it reach that point. Both the plaintiff and defendant can argue that it works in their favor.
Steingold has already pointed out to the media that Michigan regulation requires sites to verify the integrity of their games. This is supposed to take place on a daily basis.
If the glitch did indeed remain in effect for the entire time (or up until Davis saw herself beginning to lose), then there’s a case to be made for BetMGM having been negligent. Even if BetMGM isn’t on the hook for the full amount Davis won, a judge could find it liable for some damages on that basis.
Conversely, BetMGM’s lawyers might point to her five days of near-continuous play as evidence that she knew the game was malfunctioning. Of course, casino gamblers are often prone to superstitions. Despite responsible gambling messaging to the contrary, beliefs in “hot” machines or tables persist.
When challenged by a Fox reporter, David denied having suspected a glitch.
“Who sleeps when they’re winning money?” she told the reporter, by way of explanation for her volume of play.
Here is the official complaint, as filed in Wayne County.Jacqueline Davis v. BetMGM, LLC