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Saturday, June 25, 2011

 

Casino paid $25,000 when the payout was $12

Rivers Casino faces fines
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Mark Belk
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

One gambler proved to be unusually lucky at Rivers Casino last year when a slot machine hit for $25,000.

The payout should have been $12, but the progressive slot machine was improperly set by a technician and returned to play without being tested or certified by state regulators, resulting in the much bigger jackpot.

The May 29, 2010, incident is one of five over the last year in which Rivers slot machines were returned to play without being tested or certified by the state's Bureau of Gaming Laboratory Operations, as required under regulations.

As a result, the North Shore casino is facing fines from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, but just how much it will have to pay is still to be determined after board members rejected a proposed settlement earlier this month.

In voting against the consent agreement, board member Gary A. Sojka described the violations as "extraordinary important" and "more egregious than is met by this consent agreement."

"I'm really concerned that this is a serious, serious issue, and I want that message sent to the entire industry," he said.

Cyrus Pitre, the gaming board's chief enforcement counsel, said officials have had a "little bit more problems" with games being put into play without being tested or certified at Rivers Casino than at other venues in the state.

In addition to the five incidents cited in the rejected consent agreement, Mr. Pitre said there were two others for which the casino received warning letters from regulators.

The five latest incidents involved progressive slot machines, whose jackpots increase in size the longer the games go without hitting. The May 29 episode apparently was the only one that produced an improper payout.

According to the gaming board, the other incidents involved a machine that was released for play without the proper pay table being selected and without the gaming lab's approval and two machines that were released and played by customers even though the gaming lab had asked that they be held back for testing.

The most recent incident occurred in January and involved a machine that was taken out of service because it wasn't hooked up to the state's computer system and then improperly put back into service before being connected. The state was able to retrieve all revenue-related data from the machine once it was tied in, and the casino paid all taxes due.

"There were no negative impacts on patrons at any time, and there was no data ever lost," said Jack Horner, a Rivers spokesman.

The gaming board on Monday had not approved the proposed fine to be paid by the casino under the consent agreement.

Whatever the amount, it was not enough for Mr. Sojka, who argued at the board's June 8 meeting that the penalty "does not say clearly enough to all operators that this is absolutely something to which they must adhere."

"To make sure that we set a proper precedent here, I'm still not willing to approve this consent agreement," he said.

Board Chairman Greg Fajt said he shared some of Mr. Sojka's concerns. "I want to make sure that is a procedure adhered to 100 percent of the time," he said.

In defense of the agreement, Mr. Pitre said regulators took into account the money the casino paid out as a result of the erroneous $25,000 jackpot, the taxes it paid on it and the penalty that was assessed as a result. In all, he estimated that one jackpot cost the casino about $60,000.

"I'm not here to rape and pillage them. But we're here to get their attention," he said.

Richard McGarvey, a gaming board spokesman, said all progressive machines are to be tested by the gaming lab to ensure they're working properly.

As a result of the five incidents, one Rivers slots technician was dismissed and others were disciplined, Mr. Horner said. In the case of the $25,000 payout, "it's important to note that Rivers honored that jackpot," he said, and the winner did not have to return the money. "A procedure was skipped."

To prevent that from happening again, the casino has set up a system to make sure machines are tested or certified before going back into play. It features a verification checklist a technician must follow that includes the required gaming lab testing and also two signatures acknowledging that the gaming lab has tested the machine, Mr. Horner said.

"Rivers takes this matter very seriously. As a result, we have retrained all of our slot technicians about proper procedures," he said.

Gaming regulators and the casino are working on a revised consent agreement that takes into account the board's concerns.



Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11172/1155119-53-0.stm#ixzz1QKecqrz8

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