Jackpot fever!

Apr 8, 2003 12:39 AM

By GT STAFF

Over the past 10 days, big-time jackpots have been hitting in epidemic proportions at Las Vegas casinos.

Starting on March 29, a California woman hit a 25-cent Wheel of Fortune machine for nearly $1 million, then Texas Station awarded its first-ever $1 million keno pot, and finally, Santa Fe Station awarded the first Jumbo Jackpot that Station Casinos debuted only four days earlier.

At the Sahara, Alice Garibay, a program project analyst at Southern California Edison from Santa Paula, California, won $916,309.43 when she hit the 25¡ Wheel of Fortune progressive slot machine.

Garibay, a regular visitor to the Sahara, said that slots are her favorite game of choice.

"At first, I couldn’t believe that I won; I was very numb, but now I’m ecstatic!" she said "My husband, Albert, will be retiring soon, and we will finish paying for our house and invest the rest."

A grandmother of two and a collector of Beatlemania memorabilia, Garibay and her family came to Las Vegas for an over-night stay. They decided to extend their stay through the weekend, and the Sahara upgraded their rooms to a suite.

The very next day, a couple at Texas Station hit the first ever $1 million keno jackpot to be awarded in a Station casino.

Eddie and Rosanne Martin have been playing the same 10 keno numbers for years at Texas Station. They knew winning the $1 million 10-spot ticket was a long shot, but kept telling their keno host if anyone would win, it would be them.

Their prediction came true when they played their usual numbers for 20 games, putting down $20, before going to play their favorite slot games. During the fifth game, Eddie looked up to the keno board and saw all his numbers!

"I had to count twice," Eddie Martin. "We called the keno cage from our cellular phone to confirm our ticket and there it was ”” a million dollars."

In the five years since the introduction of Million Dollar Keno, the Martins are the first ever to win at a Station casino, and only the fifth in the state of Nevada.

Martin said he isn’t planning on letting his $1 million jackpot change anything in his life. "I’m still going to work every day and take care of my family. Too many people depend on me to let this change things," he said.

Over at Santa Fe Station, the recently-introduced Jumbo Jackpot Boarding Pass Bonus hit for $80,002, just for days after its debut.

Pamela Cowen, a regular Station casino patron, was dealt a non-winning video poker hand when her machine locked up and she won the Jumbo Jackpot.

She won the first ever Jumbo Jackpot for $80,002, just for using her Boarding Pass Card.

"It’s a new way to win," said Stephen Cavallaro, chief operating officer for Station Casinos. "We’re rewarding our customers for playing with Station. The Jumbo Jackpot can hit at any time, at any place, regardless of how many coins are played, or whether you have a winning hand or combination. The Jumbo Jackpot also pays 600 consolation prizes per day on average."

Launched April 1, the Jumbo Jackpot Boarding Pass Bonus gives customers playing slot or video poker machines at the company’s six Station-branded properties in the Las Vegas area with a Boarding Pass card inserted into the machine a chance to win a bonus jackpot of up to $150,000.

The Jumbo Jackpot is guaranteed to hit at each Station property by $150,000, paid immediately in cash even if the customer does not have a winning hand or combination on the machine. The jackpot meter at Santa Fe Station is now reset at $25,000.