Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Amy Nishimura won an $8.9 million Megabucks jackpot Sunday evening at the Fremont Hotel & Casino.


Molokai woman
wins $8.9M

A grandmother from Molokai took about three hours at a slot machine to win nearly $9 million in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Amy Nishimura arrived at the Fremont Hotel & Casino's Megabucks machine on Sunday evening and put in less than $100 before hitting the jackpot -- for $8,919,598.53.

Family friends said Nishimura has been a Vegas visitor for 17 years and was there to celebrate her 71st birthday tomorrow.

"I just dropped her off at the airport (Sunday) morning," said Nishimura's hanai daughter, Vika Fujimori. "The last thing I said to her was 'Break a leg, auntie.'"

"I was really shocked and surprised when I heard the news. ... I thought it was a rumor. Then I broke down and cried when I found out it was for real. I wish I was there to see her face when she won."

According to officials with Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns the Fremont, Nishimura said: "That's my machine. ... Every time I come to the Fremont, this is the machine I play, and now look, I'm a millionaire.

"It will make a nice Christmas, for sure, and even better, my birthday."

The company said Nishimura had no immediate plans for the money and wanted to give it some thought before "committing to her future investments."

Nishimura lives in Kaunakakai with Fujimori, who said her late father and Nishimura's late husband, Hajime, were good friends.

Nishimura is also grandmother of local ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.

Boyd Gaming officials said the last Hawaii resident to win at one of their hotels won $2 million while staying at the Main Street Station this past summer. Boyd officials said the resident asked not to be identified.

Reno-based International Game Technology developed the Megabucks system, which links dollar slot machines in about 150 casinos throughout Nevada. The progressive jackpot starts at $7 million and increases each time a machine is played. Winners are paid in 25 annual installments.

Megabucks is one of IGT's 22 casino-linked jackpot systems in Nevada. Separate Megabucks systems operate in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Missouri and Detroit.

A retired Marine from Las Vegas won $19.6 million last month on a "Red, White and Blue" Megabucks machine at the Stardust hotel-casino. The Marine's jackpot was the sixth-largest slot jackpot on record. The largest was $39.7 million won on Megabucks in March at the Excalibur hotel-casino in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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