Instead of coming home with a whopping 50,000 dollars, Ryan Sherry only brought back four grand.
Sherry put a hundred dollar bill into a slot machine at Talking Stick Resort in April and after a few turns, thought he hit the jackpot. He noted 3 red double 7's on the screen.
He asked to cash out, but noticed the machine only paid out $4,000, far less than the $50,000 he thought he was owed, based on a chart near the machine.
Sherry asked a manager what happened to the remaining money he was owed and was told the machine paid out correctly.
Confused, Sherry took his concerns to officials with the tribal government. He wrote a letter and even sent a photo he snapped of the machine before the payout, showing the combination on the screen.
“Why is this not $50,000?" he asked. "Look at the numbers, all the colors match, why is it not $50,000?"
After months of back and forth with the tribe, Sherry says an investigator told him the machine had a light bulb out, making an orange "7" look red. Concerned, he asked why the machine was still on the floor.
"It doesn’t have to come off the floor," Sherry said a letter from the tribe explained. "Doesn’t matter as long as the algorithm that we can’t see is paying properly."
Talking Stick officials explained the machine was working just fine, the algorithm in the machine paid out the proper amount based on the combination they say the machine displays, even if Sherry couldn't see it due to a broken light bulb.
Managers who spoke to Sherry on site said there was nothing they could do. He tells ABC15 the only consolation they offered him was a free beer.
"He goes, the machine is supposed to be paying what it is paying out," Sherry says a manager told him. "Do you want your money or not? So, it’s either collect your money, or you can leave.”
Sherry says the process has been a pain, but isn't any closer to the resolution he wants: the remaining money he says he's owed.
“When a slot machine says it's going to pay you something, you deserve to get paid that money," he said.
Salt River Pima officials told Sherry after he filed at least two grievances, he could take his concerns to tribal court. However, Sherry worries that still wouldn't help.
"It’s them judging if they want to pay this out. So, they judge themselves on if they want to pay this back."
Casinos on tribal land answer to their tribal government, with little oversight by state gaming officials on how they handle discrepancies like this. Sherry says he reached out to the Arizona Gaming Commission, who said they can only get involved if there is a fault in the machine, such as if the algorithm isn't paying out properly. In this case, Talking Stick officials say it is, and told Sherry they had a "third party company" verify that.
After more than six months of fighting, Sherry says he won't be going back to Talking Stick and wants to warn others.
“Hopefully this does not happen to you, but the only one way you can actually guarantee that this is not going to happen to you is don’t go to the casino.”
ABC15 got in touch with Talking Stick for further comment on the issue, but a casino spokesperson didn't respond to the request.