By Jaci Conrad Pearson
Black Hills Pioneer
DEADWOOD — Friday was, perhaps, the luckiest day of Jeremiah Isbell's life.
The 29-year-old Iraq veteran and father of three children ages 3, 2 and 8 months, won precisely $659,888.16 at approximately 9:55 p.m. at the Celebrity Hotel & Casino when he put $10 in a Wheel of Fortune Megajackpot 25-cent machine, placed a maximum bet of 75 cents and hit the city-wide progressive on the first shot while gaming with his wife Patsy and friends.
“I saw the first one come down and I was happy that I'd get a spin on the wheel,” Isbell explained. “Then the second one came down and I thought I got a bigger spin. Then the third one came down and it started playing music. Then I started to check the icons, trying to figure out what you get for three and I'm like 'Oh my God! It says progressive! I was in shock. I haven't been able to keep my breath. My wife heard and she came over and I was like, baby, I think I just won the progressive. And she goes, 'hit the service button.'”
Sure enough. Celebrity Hotel manager Ken Gienger was on duty the night the hit happened.
“We were here until 3:30 a.m.,” Gienger said. “I was heading back to my office at around 10, when I heard a ruckus. Cory Iverson came around the corner and said someone just hit the Wheel of Fortune
Gienger said the late night was due to procedures the gaming commission and IGT, slot machine company, follow to ensure the win was a valid one. They inspect the seals on the machine, verify that the chips in the machine are good and look at surveillance tape to make sure that the winner was in fact sitting at the machine at the time it hit.
Everything checked out and Isbell walked away with his first annuity check for $31,423. Once he receives the paperwork and returns it to IGT, he can either opt for a lump sum payment or to keep the checks going for 21 years.
“I'm going with the lump sum,” Isbell said. “I'm going to start putting it away for my kids.”
When Isbell hit the jackpot, it was reset down to $200,000. The pot is built by participating casinos city-wide contributing 5.3 percent of the coin in per machine plus sales tax.
“So if someone plays $100 of coin in, IGT would get $5.30 from us to help pay for machine fees and jackpot,” Gienger said.
The first order of business for Isbell is to pay off his bills. And second, is all about family.
“I was in the Marine Corps for eight years, so it's time for me to take a break,” Isbell said. “We're planning a possible road trip to Nevada and California and then we'll put away the money for the kids. The biggest thing for me is that we all have a secure future, my wife, my kids, my mother.”
Isbell is currently a route sales driver for Coca-Cola and he and his family live in Sturgis. He moved to the area from California and visited South Dakota for the first time in 2007, when he became acquainted with the Celebrity Hotel, which is his favorite gaming establishment.
“I just love how the artifacts are displayed there. It's a great place to be. They're just great people,” Isbell said. “When I walked in the next day, everybody knew who I was.”
Gienger was pleased to finally have the progressive hit at the Celebrity.
“We've never had anything hit like that at our place before, so it was exciting for the staff and everyone gaming here,” Gienger said. “One of the things I'm very happy about is that he's 29 years old, he's an Iraq veteran, he's got three kids and the guy could use the money to build his family's future. I think it's an excellent thing for Deadwood to work together to do these mega-progressives so we can have as big a winner as we can do.”