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Woman fights casino over $416,000 jackpot winTham Yuen-C & Ng Kai LingIt was the first time Ms. Choo Hong Eng was playing the slot machines at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino on Tuesday, and another casino patron had to show her the ropes.But less than half an hour and $50 later, the machine seemed to get stuck.When she turned to her kind fellow gamer for help again, he stared with disbelief at the numbers flickering on her screen: ‘$416,742.11’ and above it ‘Cash Bonus’.A crowd of gamers and casino staff gathered and started congratulating her.But moments later, a casino manager showed up to tell her that the machine had a glitch, and that she had instead won $50,000 and a sports car worth $258,962, which she could sell back to the casino for cash.Ms. Choo, 58, who runs a vegetarian food stall in a coffee shop in Geylang Avenue 1, told The Straits Times last night in Mandarin: ‘The other patrons told me not to be taken in. They said there was no indication anywhere that I had won only $50,000 and a car.’So the determined woman is standing her ground for the $416,742.11 in winnings she says is rightfully hers.The Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) is now in the picture, investigating the matter.Ms. Choo had filed a complaint with it after her discussions with MBS were deadlocked.On her side, Ms. Choo has casino patrons who were there with her at 6am, offering to be her witnesses.One of them, Mr. Moo Ngow Chai, a 63-year-old Malaysian, said in Mandarin in a telephone interview yesterday: ‘I saw what happened and thought it was very unfair of the casino to deny her the winnings.‘The jackpot machine clearly displayed the words ‘Cash Bonus’. There were no pictures of a car at all.’Ms. Choo said a few elderly women around at the time rallied around her, ‘guarding’ the machine to ensure that the casino staff did not turn it off, since they were not allowed to take photographs as evidence.Mr. David Green, who helped draft Singapore’s casino regulations and is a Macau-based gaming consultant, said such disputes are rare in the industry, as gaming machines are put through stringent checks before going into use.In Singapore, machines from only CRA-approved manufacturers are used.A CRA spokesman confirmed that before the machines are deployed, they are tested by qualified independent test laboratories to ensure that they meet all CRA requirements.Mr. Green, noting that slot machines can save the data of the last 10 plays, said: ‘Inspectors should be able to track easily what went wrong and determine whether it is a problem with the machine or that a player is trying to cheat,’ he said.Investigations should not take more than a month, he said.He explained that machines usually carry warning labels declaring that plays are void if the machine malfunctions, so legally, casinos are not bound to make a payout.‘But this is usually not the case. Casinos will often offer some form of payout. It is not in their interest to get into disputes with their customers,’ he said.Yesterday, Ms. Choo told The Straits Times that MBS has not given her an indication of how long it will take to resolve the matter.‘They said only that they need to investigate,’ she said.To make sure her dispute was logged, she had wanted to make a police report upon leaving the casino, but was told to go to the CRA instead.She made a police report yesterday anyway.She said: ‘It’s a matter of principle. I wouldn’t take a single cent more from them, but I wouldn’t accept a single cent less either.’MBS, when contacted, declined comment, citing ongoing investigations.Once the CRA makes its decision, however, the party who has to pay must do so in 15 days.Meanwhile, all Ms. Choo can do is wait.Last night, at her vegetarian food stall, friends and patrons who had heard about what happened patted her on the back and told her to fight on.The boss of a bakery next to the coffee shop even baked her a cake with a ‘7 7 7’ on it, depicting a jackpot win.
Ms. Choo said she is not bothered about those who think she is being greedy, because she was planning to do some charitable work with the money.Saying a casino should be fair to its patrons, she said: ‘Even though I’m illiterate in English, I can tell the difference between ‘cash’ and ‘car’. One has four letters and the other has three.’
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