Just what does a 20-year-old MGM Grand slot machine have that keeps people from around the world playing it day and night? The answer is a $2.345 million jackpot!

It’s 11 p.m. two days ago, and I find the Lion’s Share machine located on MGM Grand’s casino floor between Michael and Jenna Morton’s new restaurant Crush and the High Roller slots parlor directly across from the restaurant Grand Wok. An Asian couple has been playing it for five hours without pause. Six other people are patiently waiting in line for their shot at fame and fortune.

The machine is now the only one left of the original 50 that MGM Grand had for its opening two decades ago. It has become the stuff of legend, so much so that a worldwide cult following has grown around it.

I take the seventh seat in line that MGM Grand managers have kindly provided for the waiting players. Here’s a YouTube video of the most storied slot machine in Las Vegas history.

Justin Andrews, executive director of slot operations at MGM Grand, told me: “Lion’s Share has had a cult following for a long time. People are drawn to its history, as well as all the different theories surrounding it. It really has become somewhat of a legend.

“There has been a continual line of guests at the machine, sometimes 12 deep, waiting to take a shot at its life-changing jackpot. Everyone seems to be having a good time. We are starting to see a lot of bonding between the guests waiting in line, and our slot staff has been having a lot of fun with it.

“Lion’s Share has always been very popular and is among the most-played slot machines of the more than 2,000 we have throughout the entire casino. The machine could hit just about any time — this month, next month, this year, next year. There are no odds of it hitting because just like every slot machine, the jackpot hit would be totally random.

“Under Nevada law, we have an option to turn the machine off and move its jackpot to another machine with the same denomination; however, at this time the plans are to keep this machine operational. At this very moment, it is $2,345,404 and counting.

“We haven’t needed any special security: Everyone is very respectful of others who want to play, and there are a lot of kindred spirits in line.”

Justin told me that a Sigma Derby multi-player horse race machine near the buffet also has a cult following: “It is one of the oldest slot machines in existence; it accepts quarters, and it is constantly played. I have never seen the machine without players in all of my 11 years of working here, but this one doesn’t have a jackpot.”

It takes three lions in a row to win; no bells and whistles — it’s that old! MGM Grand President Scott Sibella, who starred on “Undercover Boss,” would be dragged out instantly — even in the middle of the night if — to pay the winner on the spot by check. The machine would be reset to $1 million. A meter on the machine, which is audited daily by MGM Grand accountants, shows players how the big prize increases with every bet.

You can play with just $1, but you have to play $3 for the giant jackpot, as smaller bets aren’t eligible for the $2 million-plus haul.

“In this past week alone, the nonstop waiting line has reached as many as 20 people deep. It’s played by people from age 21 to 100, and people are coming from overseas, especially Europe, to play it. The legend grows. It even has its own Facebook page for fans to swap rumors, stories and post photos. They’re there be it 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., 12 midnight or 12 noon. It’s become a club,“ Justin added.

Lion’s Share is a standard older mechanical slot machine and quietly sits there without screaming for attention with neither video nor neon lures. It has a retro look and those bygone era mechanical dials. This final machine is kept in active operation because Nevada state gaming laws stipulate that a progressive jackpot must be won by a player and not pocketed by a casino.

One rumor is that the eventual winner also will get to keep the machine. I watched as players talked to it, rubbed it and pushed its buttons in different ways.

“Players have a lot of theories of how to play it” said Justin.” I’ve seen people use their feet, their backsides. Some just push the buttons. Some push and rub the side quickly, some slowly.

“At some point presumably somebody will play $3 and walk away with well over $2 million, or it could grow slowly over time to $3 million until somebody wins.”

Midnight was nearing, and my spot in the line had moved up only two spots. The Asian couple was still playing after six hours. I’d seen the lion’s heads twice on different spinning cylinders. Another couple waiting in line decided to call it a night.

An English tourist waited just ahead of me. “Now I’m so close, I’ll hang out for as long as it takes,” he told me. “I’ve got $300 to play, and I could leave with $2 million. It’s worth the shot, and it could pay for my entire holiday.”

I was too tired to wait any longer, so I called it quits and figured that I’d return another day. But I’m keeping my eye on the Lion’s Share. Somebody has to win it!


The Nevada Gaming Commission conducted a meeting today in Las Vegas.

The issue: The commission considered a two-count complaint by the Gaming Control Board against Peppermill Casinos Inc., which owns operations in Reno, Sparks, Henderson and Wendover, for sending out an employee to illegally gather information on the slot machine win percentages of its competitors. The complaint also recommended a $1 million fine.

The vote: 3-0 to approve the settlement and fine, with Chairman Peter Bernhard declaring a conflict of interest and not voting and Commissioner Joe Brown abstaining.

What it means: The commission's approval of the settlement was a formality since Peppermill executives had already signed off on it. Commissioners could have changed the level of the fine and suspended or revoked the Peppermill's license.

The complaint alleged that since 2011, Peppermill employee Ryan Tors had a slot machine "reset" key that allowed him to enter the slots in other competitors to determine the amount of hold — the amount kept by casinos on wagers.

On July 12, hotel security officers at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno caught Tors using a reset key at their property. An investigation revealed that, beginning at least in 2011, Tors had used the reset key to obtain the information in 10 other casinos in the Reno-Sparks and Wendover areas.

Using a reset key to access information isn't illegal, but the Control Board intends to distribute an industry notice warning licensees not to use it in competitors' properties.

The complaint, drafted by Deputy Attorney General Michael Somps, said Peppermill's management instructed Tors "to use a slot machine reset key to access and obtain theoretical hold percentages information from slot machines belonging to one or more casinos that are competitors."

The stipulation said the casino company cooperated with board investigators in providing records and interviews with executives. Tors was placed on paid leave after the matter was discovered.

Peppermill President William Paganetti Jr., who attended Thursday's hearing, said his casino, one of the largest properties in Reno, did not use the information gained by Tors to change the hold percentage in its slot machines or to gain a competitive advantage over other casinos. The reset key can't access the "brain box" of a slot machine to alter payouts.

Prior to the commission's vote, Paganetti read a statement apologizing for his company's actions, saying he was embarrassed over the Peppermill's inappropriate actions.

"I was dumb as a post for letting this continue," he said. "I want to rebuild my credibility and I pledge to you this conduct will never happen again."

He said he also sent letters to executives of other casinos apologizing for the matter.

The board said, however, it would file another complaint against Peppermill if it found the illegally obtained information was being used to change slot machine hold percentages.

Attorney Frank Schreck, representing the Peppermill, said that while the company admitted that what Tors did was "an unsuitable method of operation," it wasn't illegal. He said the information wasn't used to gain a competitive edge, but to keep up with what a competitor was doing.

"It was abject stupidity on their part," Schreck said of his client.

Commissioner John Moran Jr. said the most difficult part of the decision was determining the level of the penalty. Because of the nature of the incident, Moran said he wasn't sure whether the $1 million fine was too much, too little or if the incident rose to the level of suspending or revoking the company's gaming license.

"It wasn't as if this was a rogue employee going out using the reset key," he said. His biggest concern, he said, was that company management was aware of the practice.

Somps said there was no previous incident to serve as a precedent for setting a $1 million fine. He said the state and the Peppermill agreed that the amount was a penalty that would prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett on Thursday said the fine was calculated based on the company's reported earnings. He said the board wanted to send a message to the industry discouraging the practice while not bankrupting the company. The amount was reached after discussions among the board members, Somps and representatives of the Peppermill.

Control Board records show the win percentage on slot machines statewide in 2013 was 6.4 percent.

It was the second seven-figure fine levied by the commission in two months. In January, the board levied a record $5.5 million fine against C.G. Technology for failing to supervise an employee taking illegal sports wagers.


The issue: The commission conducted a suitability hearing and considered the licensing of Todd McTavish, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for Austin, Texas-based Multimedia Games.

The vote: 5-0 to approve the licensing of McTavish.

What it means: The commission picked up where the state Gaming Control Board left off when it recommended approval of licensing for McTavish.

Bernhard and Commissioners Tony Alamo and John Moran Jr. had concerns about some of McTavish’s trouble with the law and his failure to disclose them when he was investigated by the Control Board.

As a high school student, McTavish was arrested in the vandalism of a school. While in college as a student athlete at Penn State University, he was accused of being involved with a group of students manufacturing phony identifications.

In 1993 in Michigan, he was arrested on a count of illegal sale of controlled substances for allegedly selling steroids to a friend.

He also was arrested on a count of disorderly conduct after an incident at a Michigan bar in 1995 and months later was accused of being involved in a disturbance at a friend’s home. Those charges were dismissed.

Months after that, he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in Tennessee and has since had numerous traffic violations and speeding tickets.

“This is a tough one,” Bernhard said, noting that McTavish would be placed at a high level of responsibility as a company’s compliance officer. He said he reluctantly supported the licensing.

McTavish, whose company is a supplier of slot machines at the Orleans and is looking to expand within the state, was supported at the meeting by Multimedia CEO Patrick Ramsey.


Gamblers will soon be able to use prepaid access cards to play slot machines in Nevada, a technological advancement that has some critics concerned that easier access to cash in a casino would broaden problem gambling.

The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday approved amendments to two regulations that would allow the use of prepaid access instruments in conjunction with approved wagering accounts.

The amendments take effect immediately, and technical standards will be published soon to guide companies. The amended regulations enable state Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett to administratively approve the use of equipment.

New Jersey already allows the use of prepaid access cards. The company that petitioned the Gaming Control Board for regulatory changes, Las Vegas-based Sightline Interactive, has contracts with three companies there.

The changes approved by regulators would give slot players some of the same access to funds enjoyed by race and sports book gamblers and online poker players.

Here’s how it would work: A player who wants to use an access card in a slot machine would first have to register at a casino with identification that verifies a player’s address and date of birth. Registration would also tie a player to a casino’s loyalty card. Players could then load the cards at their banks by transferring funds from a checking or savings account.

Harry Hagerty, president and chief financial officer of Sightline, said his company’s agreement with banks puts limitations on the amount of money that a player could load to an access card — a maximum of $2,000 a day, $4,500 a week and $10,000 a month, and the most a player could put on a card at any time is $25,000.

Regulators also said a player wouldn’t be able to use the card for at least 15 minutes after transferring the funds.

Hagerty said prepaid cards would be a benefit to casinos and players. Casinos, he said, spend an estimated $35 million a year for employees who count money and perform cash accounting. Players, he said, would be safer because those with cards would not be carrying big wads of cash after hitting a jackpot, making them vulnerable to robbers.

“Winning a jackpot can be a dual-edged sword because it can bring additional attention to you from thieves,” Hagerty said.

Players also have complained that fees associated with accessing cash in automatic teller machines are on the rise and that some ATMs charge 4 percent to 8 percent of a withdrawal amount as a fee. Hagerty said focus groups say high ATM fees has become the No. 1 complaint of casino patrons.

Hagerty stressed that only prepaid access cards would work in slot machines, not debit or credit cards.

Carol O’Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, said she was concerned about the easy accessibility of funds when the Control Board conducted a workshop meeting about the regulation in January.

O’Hare could not attend Thursday’s meeting but wrote a letter to the commission voicing concern about a change in terminology in the proposed regulation that would require establishment of a “cashless wagering system” instead of a “wagering account.” Commissioners were told the new terminology would expand the types of systems that would be required to comply with the rules.

Former Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander, the attorney representing Sightline and also an adviser to the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, said the company has agreed to place a message about problem gambling that would be visible to a player transferring funds from a bank account to an access card as recommended in January by O’Hare.


When Springfield, Mass., needed to choose who would build its first casino, the city hired an outside adviser to help with the process.

The consulting firm Shefsky & Froelich recommended the deal go to MGM Resorts International. At the same time, the consulting firm also was working as a registered lobbyist in Illinois for MGM Resorts.

The arrangement highlights an often-overlooked trend as more cities and states embrace legalized gambling around the country: Private companies are being hired to write regulations and vet casinos, even as the same firms work the other side of the fence, helping casinos enter new markets and sometimes lobbying for their interests.

States hoping to make money quickly from legalizing gambling have few options as speedy as outside contractors, which allow them to get casinos up and running without having to hire and train a cadre of staff regulators.

But letting consulting companies with deep ties to the gambling industry decide how casinos are run — and who runs them — is a significant departure from how more established gambling states, including Nevada and New Jersey, go about their business.

Regulators in states that maintain control over their own rules say the move toward privatization is unnerving.

"How do you vet your consultants? If a lot of these consultants at one time or another have worked for the people that you're in charge of regulating, at some point, you're going to have issues with the purity of the investigation," said Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea.

At least 16 states now rely on private companies for major portions of casino oversight, according to interviews with regulators around the country.

The companies advise states about whether to legalize casino gambling, and then draft gambling rules, set up oversight commissions and institute regulations, deciding which casinos and executives are suitable for licensing. The companies sometimes hire lobbyists to get to know lawmakers before gambling is even legalized.

One of the largest of this new breed of consulting companies is Spectrum Gaming, which started in 1996 in a New Jersey basement and has twice been named among the fastest-growing private companies in the United States by Inc. magazine.

Spectrum got the call in summer 2007 when West Virginia was writing regulations for table games and in 2010 when the New Hampshire Legislature was considering legalizing gambling. It recently completed a study for Florida, which is considering expanding legalized gambling, and continues to vet casino workers for Ohio and Massachusetts.

At the same time, Spectrum has worked with casino companies including Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Pinnacle Entertainment, and many Indian-run gambling operations.

Managing director Michael Pollock said his company would never work for competing interests simultaneously.

"You cannot be in this business if you're willing to entertain conflicts of interest or even an appearance of a conflict," he said.

State officials tend to rely on consultants to self-police, and ethics codes address only simultaneous conflicts. So while Massachusetts wouldn't want Spectrum working for Wynn while also vetting the company for a license, the state doesn't mind that Spectrum worked for Wynn in 2011.

This kind of coziness is common. For example, Ohio hired Spectrum and the consultant Moelis & Co. in 2009 to help establish gambling regulations and determine which casinos would be licensed. The companies turned in reports on the state's two casino operators, Penn National and Rock Ohio Caesars, even though Spectrum has worked for Caesars in the past, and Moelis & Co. has worked for Penn National Gaming.

MGM CEO Jim Murren says these issues come down to the clubby nature of the mainstream gambling world.

"This is not a huge industry, and gaming law is highly specialized," he said. "There are only maybe four or five firms that are experts in gaming law, and we know them all, and we've probably used them all."

But MGM has also been on the other side of the issue.

The company complained when it emerged in 2008 that New Jersey regulators had been freelancing for Spectrum. MGM denounced the arrangement after New Jersey regulators issued a blistering report questioning the suitability of MGM's new business partner in China.

Five years earlier, Spectrum had written a study raising questions about the partnership for MGM competitor Las Vegas Sands. The study was circulated anonymously, apparently to damage MGM.

Pollock says Spectrum would never take on a client who expected a predetermined result, whether it was Las Vegas Sands or a struggling state government.

"We make it clear from the outset that we are not necessarily going to tell you what you want to hear, we're going to tell you what you need to know. And we will not entertain an engagement in which a client seeks a particular outcome," he said.

Casino opponents are skeptical. John Sowinski, spokesman for the Florida nonprofit No Casinos, says that Spectrum often paints an overly rosy picture of the boon casinos might provide, overshooting tax revenue estimates in studies conducted for Ohio, and calling New Jersey's Revel project "just the tonic that Atlantic City needs." (The state-subsidized casino filed for bankruptcy 10 months after opening.)

Sowinski believes states in need of consultants should hire experts and firms with no connection to the casino industry

"The gambling industry is the one industry that seems to get away with this conflict of interest carte blanche," he said.


Every now and then the urge hits me to venture out of my mancave and play penny slots. Why I feel the need to contribute $50 to the Las Vegas casinos is a mystery to me.
Anyway, I chose the Longhorn on Boulder Highway because it was a nice day and that casino, in the past, has been relatively friendly to payouts. Not so this day.
But it was entertaining, although frustrating.
My first decision stood tall in front of me, three giant slots – Sex In the City, Dirty Dancing and The Hangover. I chose The Hangover because I liked that movie the best and it had four screens that intrigued me.
Also, it was one of those 40 credit minimum jobs, which was affordable with my $50 budget. Well, so much for that decision. My first $20 went in a flash. After that result, I wasn’t about to test the other two.
Bad karma, I suppose.
I wasn’t ready to quit, however, and behind me stood The Munsters. Well, I couldn’t resist, being a huge fan of Herman, Lily, Grandpa, young Eddie and, of course, Marilyn from the old TV show. Herman and Lily were the biggest paying winners in the slot game, but Grandpa was the wild card that most often came up. Al Lewis was awesome playing that Dracula role and just as awesome in “Car 54 Where Are You,” where he also teamed up with Fred Gwynne (Herman).
So the big decision was how much to spend. To get any value for your buck, you need to go the full 9 lines. You had choices of playing 1 line (9 cents), 2, 10, 15 and 20. The 20 costs $1.80 per spin.
You have to play at least 10 to get into the bonus so I did just that at 90 cents a pop. I hung in for a while, got a couple of decent hits, but eventually tapped out.
With another $20 gone, I spent the final $10 on drinks. Hey, when a pretty girl sits next to you, it costs.
I wouldn’t say these particular games compare with Buffalo, but for entertainment value it was in the ballpark. Later I found out my original intention to bet Eovaldi and the Miami Marlins at plus money would have been a winner.
So expect more sports picks and less slots from me in the future. I’ll leave the penny bandits for that lady who got the drinks and a few bucks back hittiing I Dream of Jeannie.

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Station Casinos brings back one of its most popular promotions this month with “Swipe and Win.” All guests can swipe their Boarding Pass after earning five points on Fridays and Saturdays in October and instantly win from the pool of cash and prizes.
Guests can also earn drawing entries all through October for the chance to “Spin and Win” for additional cash prizes every Sunday.
Play the “$3 Million Swipe, Swipe & Spin Giveaway” at the following nine properties: Boulder Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Green Valley Ranch Resort, Palace Station, Red Rock Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station and Texas Station.
Entries may be earned daily by playing slots, video poker, keno, bingo and table games as well as with select race and sports wagers. Guests may swipe for 10 free drawing entries every day through Oct. 27, and entries earned during the week will be applied to drawings each Sunday at 4:15 and 8:15 p.m. Entries earned at one property do not carry over to the other properties; however guests are welcome to earn entries and become eligible at multiple properties.
Every Friday and Saturday, guests may swipe their Boarding Pass card at any Boarding Pass kiosk to win up to $10,000, free meals, hotel rooms, slot play, drawing entries and more. Guests can swipe at any Boarding Pass kiosk to receive their Swipe and Win prize instantly once they have earned five Boarding Pass points.
In addition, 10 guests at each property will get to participate in the Spin and Win giveaway each Sunday for an automatic $250 cash prize and the chance to increase their winning up to $5,000. While guests have up to 24 hours to claim prizes, winners must be present to be able to Spin and Win for the additional bonus cash prize. Full contest details are available at www.sclv.com or at any Rewards Center.
Boyd Gaming: Pumpkin Patch Drawings are back at Sam’s Town, Suncoast, Orleans and Gold Coast. Ten lucky winners at each property will be drawn every Friday and Saturday evening in October to pick one of the 30 envelopes on the prize board. Envelopes have prizes from $250 in cash all the way up to $10,000! Prizes may also include electronics like HDTVs, iPads and more. Check the complete details and drawing times at the B Connected club booth.
Excalibur: Dick’s Last Resort will host its very own “Dicktoberfest” Wednesday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 6. Known as the “Shame O’ The Strip,” guests can celebrate the fun fall holiday with a selection of tasty German-style fare, beer specials, live music and more that will have unruly patrons dancing and raising their glasses just like the Bavarians.
Holiday specials include $10 menu items, such as Bratwurst Hoagies, Sauerkraut Link Hoagies, Giant Pretzels and Garlic Fries. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of 12 domestic and international brews on tap. The holiday special will offer 2-for-1 beer specials such as the 12 oz. Strong Bow Cider and Heineken drafts regularly priced at $8.
“Taco the Entertainer” will host beer stein holding contests and punching bag match ups as he gives away Heineken and swag to the lucky brew-drinking winners.
Until next week…good luck, good eats and good gaming!

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