Santa Claus may have been a few days late, but Joe Jenkins isn’t complaining.
Jenkins, a 55 year-old from Wilmington, North Carolina, parlayed $20 into $5.5 million while playing the Wheel of Fortune slot machine at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Jenkins flew to Las Vegas to spend Christmas at Caesars with his friend Carol McDuffie-Harris, whose husband was a frequent guest of the legendary hotel casino.
Harris’ husband had recently passed away, as had Jenkins’ mother, and the long-time friends decided that a trip to Caesars Palace would help make the holidays a little more festive.
Jenkins, a fan of slot machines, decided to test his luck at one of the Wheel of Fortune slot machines and hit the jackpot by spending only $20.
Upon verification of the Mega Jackpot, Jenkins received his first of 20 annual checks in the amount of $278,714.49.
"A friend of mine invited me to Caesars Palace for the holidays," said a stunned Jenkins. "Christmas came a little late I guess — but I think it is just on time."
Jenkins said he will use the money to pay some bills and to celebrate. When asked what he thought the folks back home will think, Jenkins answered, "They will probably come knocking on my door."
Wheel of Fortune, like all IGT MegaJackpots top awards are paid in annual installments upon verification, except MegaJackpots Instant Winners Jackpots and Rapid Riches MegaJackpots awards, which are paid in their entirety upon verification.