When a Grand Palm Hotel casino machine flashed a message that told Basupi Dikago that he had won P16.4 million, he was immediately on the first civilian space shuttle to Cloud Nine. Minutes later, however, he came crashing down to Mother Earth when he was hit with the unpleasant truth. According to hotel staff, the machine was ‘faulty’.
But Dikago is not taking all that lying down and has gone as far as the Casino Control Board to get the money that he genuinely believes he won.
Next week on Tuesday, the Casino Control Board will arbitrate in the case of a jackpot that refuses to open nine months after the fact. As part of the arbitration process, the Board has sought permission from the Attorney General to engage the services of a private legal advisor to assist it.
Dikago was playing a poker machine at the Grand Palm casino on May 29 last year when the machine displayed the following message: “Congratulations. You have won 16 380 064.” It then asked him to enter his PIN number in order to release the amount.
He writes in his letter to the chairman of the Board: “I had to stop and called the attendant for his attention. I firstly called the slots attendant by the name of Phenyo. Phenyo called David the slot technician. David than called the Casino Manager, Bruce, for the same attention.
“These three employees of the Grand Palm Casino gathered around Machine No. 3303 for that short discussion. They later removed my MVG card and cancelled the figures on the machine and left me without a word to their offices. After a while I called Phenyo again, he then phoned Bruce at his office and later accompanied me to Bruce’s office.”
Bruce reportedly informed Dikago when he was in his office: “Hard luck, the machine has been faulty.”
The hotel does not deny that the poker machine did indeed display that message. According to Johan Beukes, the hotel’s gaming manager, Bruce “realised that it was an error message which caused the Player Tracking Unit (PTU) to freeze up”. This was reportedly explained to Dikago who was further told that because the machine was faulty, no payment was due to him.
This is what Beukes has told the Casino Control Board: “It was clearly explained to Mr. Dikago at the machine that the only way that he could win or get any combination or award was through the slot machine alone and the combinations displayed on the machine monitor. It was further explained that the Player Tracking Device did not make contribution towards jackpots or any other winning combination or awards unless it was activated to do so. In this case, the Mystery Jackpot functions had been disabled since 4 March 2007.”
Along the way, the Casino Control Board has sought the opinion of the National Gambling Board of South Africa – a larger and more sophisticated operation than Botswana’s.
In response to that request, Mike Burns, the Compliance Manager of the South African Board said that if Dikago had won an in-machine jackpot “the machine would have gone into ‘frozen’ mode, the tower light would have immediately gone on, the machine would have reflected/announced the ‘win’ on screen …. Video surveillance will clearly show you if anything of this nature occurred…. The Player Tracking Unit, which has nothing to do with the game, does not reflect when a jackpot is won…it merely serves to record a player’s play hence the name player tracking.”
What Burns said next is of no comfort to Dikago: the machine the latter played has a preset maximum of P20 000. Burns said that under no circumstances could that machine have shown a jackpot worth millions of pula.
“These machines generally pay out above P5000 to preset maximum of P20 000. In closing, I believe the punter Mr. Dikago’s playing at machine 3303, had a PTU error which has nothing to do with the operation of the machine itself and he is therefore not entitled to any compensation/winnings as he never won,” Burns advised the Casino Control Board.
However, Burns’ advice has one very crucial qualification: “… this information cannot be used as part of your investigation report as we are not the appointed investigators.”
Technical expertise has also been sought from International Game Technology Africa whose own conclusion was that “the cause was not from the slot machine until such time proven otherwise”. Apparently, a change has been implemented on the machine systems to prevent an occurrence similar to the one Dikago is complaining about, from ever happening again.
To bolster its case, Grand Palm has pointed out that all its casino machines have a disclaimer notice that reads: “Malfunction voids all plays and pays”.