Black Mesa Casino Withholding $542k Prize from 74-Year-Old Veteran

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  • Tommy Wilson claims he won over half a million dollars on February 25
  • Wilson did not take a picture of his win or get the names of any witnesses
  • The casino told him to file a complaint with a commission separate from the state regulator

The Black Mesa Casino in Algodones, New Mexico is allegedly denying a 74-year-old veteran $542,000 in prizes won on a slot machine.

Tommy Wilson of Las Cruces said he hit the jackpot on February 25th, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The casino’s management retorted that the slot machine that was used to win the massive prize malfunctioned, meaning that the win does not count and will not result in a payout. 

Wilson was informed that he could file a complaint with the gaming commission, though that is not the state regulator.

Scenes from the casino floor

According to Wilson, he spent roughly five minutes and $100 on a buffalo-themed slot machine. There was no hiding that he did trigger a win on the slot machine as the bells rang, the lights were illuminated, and several nearby patrons walked over to congratulate him.

However, much to Wilson’s dismay, he was informed that his win was illegitimate due to a machine malfunction.

“They did their diagnostics, whatever that is, and said ‘this is not a legitimate win,’ that there was some kind of digital or electronic glitch, so they didn’t pay anything,” Wilson told the Albuquerque Journal. “Zero.”

Wilson’s referral to the gaming commission came to be another point of contention as that body is not the state’s regulatory committee—that group in question is the New Mexico Gaming Control Board (NMGCB). According to the state government’s website, the NMGCB is responsible for “monitoring compliance of the New Mexico gaming tribes under the approved Tribal/State gaming compacts.”

Wilson, who is living with friends in Las Cruces, did not file a claim immediately as he had to be in Denver, Colorado for a job interview. He returned a few days later and submitted his complaint.

“I didn’t file anything at that time because I was so perturbed,” Wilson said. “(After the complaint was filed) “They told me they’ll be in touch, and they got my phone number and my email address.”

What’s next for Wilson?

Wilson, who served in the Air Force and is now unemployed, said that he could have used the money to speed up his retirement and help his recovery from a recent triple bypass surgery. He had hoped the casino would offer a payment smaller than the jackpot sum as a consolation for the malfunctioning machine and was upset to find out that wasn’t a possibility.

“You know, if they said, ‘Mr. Wilson, we’re sorry that this happened and we would like to offer you $50,000 as an apology,’ that would have been fine,” said Wilson. “Instead, they offered me nothing, and that’s not fine, that’s not OK.” 

It is unknown what the future holds for Wilson and his complaint. He believes that his time is coming one way or another. 

“What I want is justice, and justice will come in the form of karma,” Wilson said. “I’m a believer in that.”

The legal casino is operated by the San Felipe Pueblo tribe. It has a promotion where active and retired military personnel are given $10 worth of free plays on Wednesdays, similar to different sportsbook bonuses and promotions.

Despite having his win torn from his fingertips, Wilson played the Black Mesa slots once again during his return to file a complaint. His luck struck once again with wins of $1,226 and  $1,446 on a Kings of Africa machine.

Wilson’s claim is still being processed at the time of writing. There have been no updates from the casino since it told Wilson that his win did not count.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.