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The hits keep coming!

Aug 14, 2007 7:16 AM

In our Slots Today section, Scot Krause’s Reel Deals column includes a report on the latest Wheel of Fortune mega-jackpot winner from IGT.

The $402,848 mega-jackpot was already the fourth for the month of August, of which three were on Wheel of Fortune machines.

The award comes on the heels of 20 mega-jackpot winners in July, of which 18 were on Wheel of Fortune progressive machines.

IGT debuted their Wide Area Progressive systems 21 years ago with its first Megabucks game, which connects machines in casinos throughout the state to a single large jackpot that grows as machines on the system are played.

And they’ve been expanding the system ever since.

"We developed Megabucks to offer a substantial jackpot alternative for casino players," said Ed Rogich, IGT’s vice president of marketing. "We believe certain gaming customers prefer to play for very large jackpots, and the continuing popularity of the MegaJackpot games bears that out."

Rogich added that the initial success of Megabucks, a dollar slot game, led IGT to adapt the concept to numerous other systems in a wide range of denominations — from pennies (The Beverly Hillbillies) to $5 tokens (Wheel of Fortune).

Over the years, IGT’s mega-jackpot games have produced more than 1,000 millionaires and have awarded more than $3.8 billion in major jackpots.

What happens when the stars align and you win a mega-jackpot?

According to reports from previous winners, time seems to stand still until you finally realize you’ve hit the Big One.

Five hundred miles north of Las Vegas, in the IGT Reno MegaJackpots Operations room, the lineup of the game’s symbols triggers first an alarm and then, a few seconds later, an advisory that a primary jackpot has been recorded on the system.

Generated by the computers that monitor the 7,800 or so MegaJackpots machines scattered throughout the state, the advisory tells the 24-hour monitoring staff which game you were playing, as well as the time, location and amount of your jackpot.

Back in Las Vegas, the casino staff has, perhaps, offered you a quiet place to sit and relax. They are excited, too, and are finding it hard to resist the impulse to offer congratulations. While all outward signs indicate that you have won a significant amount of money, your win is not yet "official" and congratulations not yet in order.

Nevada gaming regulations require a verification process in which IGT technicians thoroughly inspect the machine’s internal systems to insure that the machine is working properly and the jackpot is legitimate.

In Reno, the Operations people are on the phone calling the technicians who will arrive shortly to inspect your machine. They also notify a jackpot response representative who — once your jackpot is official — will present you with various documents to sign. The representative will also give you a check. In the case of a MegaJackpots Instant Winners game, the check will be for the full amount of the jackpot (IGT does not withhold taxes). If you were playing an annuity game, the check will represent the first annual installment.

In the course of verifying that a jackpot is legitimate, the IGT technician will check the candle (the light on top of the machine), compare various game programs, and compare machine readings to the information originally received at the Reno Operations center.

Once the jackpot is verified, congratulations are in order, and completing the paperwork brought by the jackpot response rep is ready to begin. Winners are asked to present two forms of identification and give a current address, phone and employment information so IGT can reach them later. In most cases, IGT does not withhold state or federal taxes, but winners are required to fill out a W-2G form reporting your winnings, which will be filed with the IRS. The paperwork usually takes less than an hour, then the winner is presented with a check.

To help the winner cash or deposit the check, a phone number for an IGT specialist is provided, who will verify to the bank that the check is legitimate.

A few days later, an IGT representative will be in touch to finalize a few follow-up steps but, essentially, the process is completed.

Then comes the fun part — spending, investing or simply reveling in your mega-jackpot winnings.