Man wins $57 million, casino says 'software glitch'

A man in Austria plays a casino slot machine that tells him he has won almost $58 million. When he asks for his payout, the casino offers him $100 and a free meal.

If you've ever been to a casino, you know that the general purpose of the exercise is to, well, lose.

Very occasionally, people do win. But do they always come out with the money?

I muse on this state of world affairs because of the painful tale of Behar Merlaku. Merlaku, a 26-year-old Kosovar Albanian, was reportedly pushing the buttons on a slot machine in Bregenz, Austria, when it suddenly told him he had won a lot of money: forty-three million euros--which, at current prices, is just under $57 million.

Few on this earth would have felt anything other than numb elation at discovering that their dependence on The Man was finally over.

I feel rage against the machine. CC Andres Rueda/Flickr

However, Merlaku was merely left with the numb part of that after trying to collect his prize. For, as the Daily Mail reports, he was offered around $100 for a free meal.

I have no reason to believe that any meal could be worth, say, $56 million. This one was, perhaps, worth nearer to $56. Casinos Austria AG, you see, insisted that he'd only had four of the five matches on his slot machine.

The bells, whistles and hosannas that the machine had emitted telling him he had won a vast vat of cash had been merely a software error.

I know you can see where this is going. No, not to a fine casino lunch, but to a fine Austrian courthouse.

Merlaku didn't accept the casino's seemingly less than generous offer. The casino reportedly banned him. When he pressed for his dues legally, the casino allegedly passed the, um, buck to the folks who had made the slot machine.

Casino Austria AG also reportedly happened to mention that in Austria no jackpot can be higher than 2 million euros. Which might leave some bystanders most confused.

Merlaku's lawyers told the Mail: "There was no contemporaneous independent assessment of the claimed error, and no opportunity has since been afforded by the company for the machine software to be analyzed, other than by Atronic, a supplier to it of jackpot controllers."

Merlaku himself was quoted by the Mail as saying: "The jackpot came up loud and clear. There was music and the sum I had won--nearly 43 million euros--was displayed on a screen."

Music does often signal a change of fortune. In this case, Merlaku even captured footage of his change of fotune on his cell phone. Some observers feel this may not have been a good thing because it shows he only had four of the five reels aligned.

The case has its first hearing in January and it will be fascinating to see whether the casino produces a software expert to help it defend its case.

Some might find it surprising, perhaps, that the casino doesn't appear to have reached some sort of equitable (and confidential) agreement with Merlaku. Some might bemoan the notion that it chose to offer such a paltry reward to crush one man's joy at his newfound wealth.

But those who run casinos are hardened characters. You're supposed to enjoy the buzz and the expectation. The actual prize, it seems, has to be prized from the cold, hard fingers of the banker.

Which is not, in fact, so different from the rest of life, is it?

 

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