A 42-year-old unemployed Ramona man hit the jackpot April 20, winning a $1 million progressive jackpot while playing a $2.50 spin on a penny machine in the Santa Ysabel Casino just 15 miles east of Ramona.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he isn’t a very religious man, but he felt truly blessed after winning the money. He told casino General Manager David Chellete, Cage Manager Bibiana Osuna, and Mike Beezley, a representative from Rocket Gaming, that he was going to use the winnings to pay off the mortgage on his house, buy his wife a new car, set aside a college fund for his two sons, ages 8 and 10, and plan a summer road trip to see the country with his family.
When he first told his wife last Wednesday evening that he had won, he said she didn’t believe him. Then he showed her the official confirmation letter. When she read it, she began to cry.
The man said he visits the Santa Ysabel casino a few times a month and enjoys the atmosphere and friendly staff.
This is Santa Ysabel Casino’s fires $1 million hit since opening in 2007. The second highest jackpot was on a Wheel of Fortune machine in December 2008 for $178,014.
The penny machine the Ramona man used to win the jackpot was a Gold Series progressive machine owned by Rocket Gaming, which has 1,100 similar games throughout the United States. It’s the ninth $1 million payout the company has made in the past 17 months. This is the first one in California.
The winner won a total of $1,036,253.
“It’s a life-changing event that you would never expect,” he said, adding that he wants to pay off the mortgage on his mother’s house so she no longer needs to worry about it. For the past few years he and his wife have donated to the Smile Care Foundation, which helps children in other countries with dental care, and he said he’d like to donate some money to the tribe’s youth program.