00s | Pop Culture

4 of the Biggest Slot Wins in Casinos


When it comes to slot machines, there are few more exciting moments than staring at the reels of a progressive jackpot game, knowing that you could win tens of millions of dollars in an instant. Progressive jackpots increase steadily over time, the longer they aren’t won. A tiny percentage of each stake is added to the jackpot per spin. Furthermore, some of the progressive jackpots are linked across multiple machines and sometimes even multiple games.

In the 2000s, progressive jackpot slots had become all the rage, with machines on the casino floors of Las Vegas rife with progressive slots – particularly the Megabucks game, which offers simple gameplay with just one payline running through the middle of its three reels. In fact, “Sin City” was more known for its progressive slots than its other betting opportunities, such as its sportsbooks that offered unrivaled coverage of the biggest events like Super Bowl finals.

Today, there are a growing number of casinos online that now offer guaranteed jackpots triggered daily across a host of jackpot slots as a consequence of Megabucks’ success. It is one of the main features to have gravitated across from land-based gaming to the digital world.

Let’s look back at some of the biggest Megabucks progressive wins throughout the 2000s, that helped to take the appeal of these jackpot slots to whole new levels.

  1. $39.71m – Megabucks (March 2003)The biggest slot jackpot of them all came at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip in the Excalibur Casino. A 25-year-old software engineer, visiting from Los Angeles, took $100 to a Megabucks slot machine in the hope of striking lucky. Sure enough, he would go on to land the progressive, winning $39,719,826 in total. To this day, this jackpot has not been eclipsed in over 17 years of slot gaming!
  2. $34.9m – Megabucks (January 2000)The second-biggest slot jackpot was actually claimed within days after the turn of the new millennium at the Desert Inn Casino in Las Vegas. Cynthia Jay-Brennan was a cocktail waitress at the resort and following a work shift she opted to have a dabble at one of the Megabucks machines. She would go on to win $34.9 million – the biggest ever payout at the time. Ms. Jay-Brennan’s story would end in tragedy, however. Just weeks after winning the jackpot, she was paralyzed because of a car accident.
  3. $22m – Megabucks (March 2002)Two years on from Ms. Jay-Brennan’s massive jackpot win, Megabucks paid out once again, this time to a 74-year-old woman named Johanna Huendl. Ms. Huendl was enjoying her vacation in Nevada at the time of her win and invested a few hundred bucks into her Megabucks machine as she was passing. At the time of her win, Ms. Huendl assumed she had won $2 million but was soon put straight by the casino staff who confirmed a payout of $22,618,156!
  4. $21m – Megabucks (September 2005)In 2005, a remarkable state of events occurred in Las Vegas once again. It is said that the odds of winning the progressive jackpot on the Megabucks slot is around one-in-ten-million. Amazingly, a World War II veteran managed to overcome those odds and prevailed with progressives not once but twice. That’s right, a man named Elmer Sherwin managed to win an initial $4.6 million on the reels of Megabucks. Mr. Sherwin used his winnings to embark on an around-the-world tour in his 80s, but that wasn’t to be the end of his fortune. In September 2005, aged 92, Sherwin returned to the Megabucks slots in Las Vegas and, to everyone’s surprise, struck gold once more – this time with a whopping $21,147,947 success. Hurricane Katrina had hit the US hard around the time of Sherwin’s win and he opted to donate a large percentage of his winnings to the victims of the storm prior to his passing in 2007.

Elmer Sherwin’s fairy tale story is certainly proof that it’s possible to beat the odds and not only change your own life but the lives of others too. As we moved into the 2010s and now the 2020s, there is a growing number of progressive slot games too, with Megabucks no longer the only game to offer outrageous cash prizes.