‘All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast’, or so wrote American journalist and author John Gunther. Whether or not Johanna Heundl subscribed to that philosophy as she headed for her morning meal at Bally’s Las Vegas in May, 2002, is something we may never know, but happiness, at least financial happiness, was just moments away. The 74-year-old Austrian immigrant, who was, coincidentally, celebrating her birthday, paused briefly for what she described as ‘a quick pull on the machines’. She deposited just $3 into the ‘Megabucks’ progressive jackpot slot machine, hoping to win one of the smaller progressive prizes, worth $3,000.
She reportedly looked away and, when she looked back again, saw three ‘Megabucks’ symbols which, she believed, gave her a jackpot prize of $22,000. She was mistaken; in actual fact, she had defied odds estimated at 50,000,000/1 to land a jackpot prize of $22,621,229.74, which was, at the time the third largest slot machine payout in the history of Sin City. Hitherto, her windfall had been exceeded only by a $34.9 million payout at the Desert Inn in 2000 and a $27.5 million payout at Palace Station two years previously.
Ms. Heundl was obviously delighted, saying, ‘I’m very happy it happened to me and I’m very grateful to everybody. I want to thank everybody; everybody’s very nice.’ She opted to take her winnings as a one-off lump sum, but confessed that she was unsure what she would do with the money. She said, ‘I just bought a new car. It’s not even delivered yet,’ adding, ‘I have a house. I could remodel, or maybe buy a new house. I will go to Europe to see my family’.