Behar Merlaku, a gambler who thought he had won $58 million on a slot machine has been offered a free meal and $90 instead, after Austrian casino bosses said the jackpot was due to a “software error”.
Behar Merlaku, 26, a Kosovar-Albanian who moved to Switzerland at the time of the Balkans wars, played the winning machine at a casino in Bregenz, Austria.
Despite only getting four of the slot machine’s five required matches, Behar Merlaku was told he had won the massive jackpot – complete with a winning bell and flashing screen.
However, when Behar Merlaku went to claim his prize, he was instead offered $90 and a meal by casino bosses after they refused to pay out.
Now the disgruntled gambler is to launch a lawsuit in Austria next month to force the casino to honour the “win”, which his lawyers says he is entitled to because of the what machine said.
The civil action, thought to be the biggest claim of its kind anywhere in the world, is being keenly watched by gaming operators everywhere.
The incident happened in a Casinos Austria AG establishment at Bregenz, on March 26 this year.
When Behar Merlaku made his claim the operators of the casino immediately blamed a glitch in the machine.
When Behar Merlaku snubbed the paltry offer of compensation he was banned from the casino. Lawyers for the plaintiff say the company has passed the buck to the fruit machine manufacturer and refuse to take any responsibility for the error.
It also cited Austrian law which said jackpots cannot normally be higher than two million euros ($2.7 million).
A press conference is due to be held tomorrow in Innsbruck, Austria, outlining the case against Casinos Austria, which operates a casino in Glasgow, UK.
The company also operates casinos in Cairns and Canberra, Australia, and elsewhere.
Behar Merlaku’s legal team said: “The slot machine that produced the winning display was immediately accessed by Casinos Austria.
“The regulator, the Austrian Ministry of Finance, has shown no interest in pursuing an orderly investigation as would be the case in well regulated gaming jurisdictions such as the UK, Switzerland, Singapore, the USA, Australia and Macau.”
The first hearing in the case is scheduled for January 10, 2012.
Behar Merlaku said in an Austrian television interview that the greatest moment of his life quickly turned into the worst.
He added: “The jackpot came up loud and clear. There was music and the sum I had won – nearly 43 million euros [$58 million] – was displayed on a screen.
“I was so overjoyed and in my head I began calculating what I could do with all this money.”
Behar Merlaku even used his mobile phone to film footage of the winning noise and screen.
However, this could be used against him in court because the video shows he only had four of the five symbols in a line; in Austria there must be five matches.
Behar Merlaku’s lawyers will argue that because the machine told him he had won and therefore is justified in pursuing a claim.