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Hitting a Slot Machine Jackpot

Reporting to the IRS


Many players dream of hitting a big jackpot when they play the slots but some are not sure of exactly what happens when they do win. They also have questions about the taxes they must pay on their winnings. Here is a look at what happens when you hit a jackpot on the slot machines.

Hand Paid Jackpots
When you hit the winning combination of symbols for a large jackpot your slot machine will lock up. Depending on the machine any of the following will happen: The lights on top of the machine will come on and start flashing, music will start playing or bells will ring and their might be a message across the screen reading “call attendant.” In most casinos and electronic signal is sent back to a central monitoring room and they are aware that a large jackpot was hit.

On smaller jackpots under $5,000 an attendant will come by and verify that you did hit the jackpot and then get your money. In the case of a larger or progressive jackpot they may have technicians come and check the machine to certify that it was functioning properly when the jackpot hit. If you hit one of the wide are progressive machines such as MegaBucks the slot companies that operate the game will come out and verify that machine before giving you a check.

When you hit a jackpot you have the option of taking your winnings in cash or check. Usually very large amounts will be paid by check. In the case of the MegaBucks or similar multi-million dollar jackpots, you will be paid a check for the partial amount and then you have 90 days to decide if you want to be paid a lump sum or an annual annuity on the balance.

IRS Reporting
All casino winnings are subject to federal taxes however the IRS only requires the casinos to report any wins over $1,200 on slot and video poker machines or other games such as keno, lottery or hose racing. When you have a win equal to or greater than $1200, you will be issued a W-2G form. This form lists your name, address and social security number. The casinos are not required to take out withholding tax on jackpots under $5,000 as long you supply your social security number. If you don’t provide your social security number the casinos will withhold 28 percent on smaller jackpots.

You can request a specific amount of withholding tax to be taken out on any jackpot you win. Some player like to do this to avoid a big tax payment in April when the file their income tax returns. The additional withholding may not be necessary if you keep a log book.

The law allows you to deduct gambling loses up to the amount of your winnings. You can only do this if you have documentation of your losses. Keeping a diary or logbook, is the way to do this.

Proper Identification
The casino will require proper identification before you are paid your jackpot. U.S. casinos can refuse to pay you until you produce proper identification. Your identification must have your photo on it. You can use a driver’s license, Military ID or passport. As a rule of thumb, if it were able to board an airline flight with the ID then it will be valid in the casino to claim your jackpot.

If you don’t produce an ID you will be photographed and the casino will hold your winnings until you come back with proper ID. This is the reason you should always carry a valid form of identification with you when you visit the casino.

When the casinos check your identification they will also be checking your age to make sure you are legally old enough to be playing. The minimum age for gambling varies from State to State but under age gamblers will not be paid if they hit a jackpot. This is the law in all jurisdictions and it has been upheld in the courts.

Plan Ahead
Before you start playing your favorite slot machines you should have a plan for what you will do when you hit a jackpot. Players get very excited when the hit the big one and this may affect the decisions they make about their winnings. It will be helpful if you know ahead of time how much withholding you want taken out or if you want a check for all or some of the amount. Regardless what decisions you make, don’t forget to bring your ID with you when you play.

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