What Happened to Katrina Bookman, the Woman Who Won – Then Was Denied – $42.9 Million at the Casino?

Imagine winning a life-changing sum of money at the casino, only to be told that you didn’t actually win because the slot machine had malfunctioned. It would be heartbreaking.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to Katrina Bookman. Here we recount her unfortunate story of the $42.9 million slots jackpot that never was. Get your tissues at the ready because this is a sad one…

The Katrina Bookman Casino Story: What Happened?

Katrina Bookman has one of the most astounding, disappointing, and frustrating jackpot stories ever told.

The New York native became infamous in 2017 for what’s been dubbed the “$42 million selfie” – a photo taken in front of the Sphinx Wild slot game inside Resorts World Casino New York.

Alongside Bookman’s beaming smile is a message we’d all like to read: “printing cash ticket – $42,949,672.76.”

katrina bookman selfie
Image: Katrina Bookman

Yes, you read that correctly, Katrina Bookman had, seemingly, won a $42.9 million jackpot.

According to a 17-page lawsuit filed by Bookman (more on this later), the onscreen message was accompanied by “bells, noises, and lights.” For all intents and purposes, it appeared to all within earshot of the slot that Bookman had hit the jackpot.

We’ve used the words “seemingly” and “appeared” because, despite what the message said, Bookman hadn’t won $42.9 million.

What, why?

Bookman’s slot win caused a stir on the casino floor. Members of staff took her from the melee to a backroom where she was, reportedly, told to return the next day. Katrina Bookman duly obliged.

As she said during an interview with ABC 7, the only thoughts going through her mind at the time were the amount she’d won and “her family.”

Katrina bookman crying
Image: ABC 7

Unfortunately for Bookman, things took a terrible turn the following day.

Upon returning to Resorts World NY, she asked a casino representative how much she’d won. They told her: “you didn’t win nothing.”

That’s when reality hit like a Mac truck.

Steak Dinner Offered Instead

It transpired that the $42.9 million jackpot wasn’t legit. According to a joint statement from Resorts World and the New York State Gaming Commission, the message Bookman saw was an error.

The Sphinx Wild jackpot for the amount of money Bookman wagered (40 cents) should have been $6,500. Therefore, the $42.9 million jackpot was the result of the machine malfunctioning.

That meant Bookman wasn’t entitled to the multi-million dollar payout. But, as a gesture of “goodwill”, Resorts World NY offered her a free steak dinner and $2.25.

What would you do in this situation? Well, like a lot of people, Bookman refused the offer. Not only did she refuse, she vowed to fight the decision, and that’s where the Katrina Bookman casino story takes another turn.

Katrina Bookman’s Court Case & Settlement

What happened to Katrina Bookman after Resorts World Casino NY refused to pay? She took her case to court.

Days after discovering the jackpot was an error, Bookman hired an attorney called Adam Ripka. Together, they filed a 17-page lawsuit against Resorts World Casino, Genting New York LLC, and software provider IGT.

The dossier contained the selfie Bookman took in front of the slot machine, as well as her account of the situation. It concludes with a demand for $42,949,672.76 in damages from the casino and its partners.

Commenting on the lawsuit, Ripka told ABC 7 that the casino had an obligation to pay. “The machine takes your money when you lose. It ought to pay it when you win,” said Ripka.

However, the casino maintained its position and, under the gambling laws in New York, “malfunctions void all pays and plays.”

Ripka quickly pivoted when it became apparent that Resorts World Casino wasn’t liable for the $42.9 million jackpot, assuming the slot machine had malfunctioned. Like any skilled attorney, Ripka pivoted and said that, at the very least, the casino should pay Bookman the game’s jackpot which, as we’ve said, is $6,500.

So, how did the lawsuit pan out? Did she get her $42.9 million? Was there a Katrina Bookman settlement for $6,500?

The sad part of the Katrina Bookman casino story is that she received neither. A judge at Queens County Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendants. For Bookman, that was the end of the saga. Despite her beliefs and best efforts, she didn’t get the money she claims she won.

Can a Casino Refuse to Pay Out?

The Katrina Bookman verdict might shock you, but it’s not unprecedented. Slot machines are computers and, just like your laptop, things go wrong from time to time. All licensed casinos, including online casinos, have the right to refuse payouts if they’re the result of a system error.

Pauline McKee found that out in 2015. The 90-year-old won $1.85 playing the Miss Kitty slot game at a casino in Iowa. However, the message she saw on screen actually informed McKee that she’d won $41 million – you can imagine her joy.

Like Bookman, McKee was told the message was an error. She took her case to court but a judge ruled in favor of the casino. McKee was in a reflective mood when she spoke to the Chicago Tribune about it, saying she had doubts about the win as it was a lot for a penny slot. She went on to say that “it wasn’t meant to be.”

Another casino-goer who suffered at the hands of a system error was Maribel Sanchez. She was denied an $8.4 million payout after being told the Liberty 7s slot machine had malfunctioned.

The lesson of the Katrina Bookman casino story and those like it is not to get too excited if you hit a slots jackpot. 99% of the time your win will be legit, but there is a small chance it could be an error. Indeed, if the payout seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So, if you take anything from the Katrina Bookman verdict, it’s that you should understand the rules before you play and always verify your payouts before mentally spending the money.


Daniel Smyth

Daniel comes to Techopedia.com with a wealth of experience in the gambling sector. Over the last 15+ years, he’s written content for WPT Magazine, CardsChat, and Gambling.com. Daniel has also worked directly with many of the industry’s leading operators, including PokerStars, Betway, and Yggdrasil. If it’s about gambling, Daniel has covered it.