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You approach a slot machine you have a “good feeling” about, insert some cash, and press the button. As the reels spin, you move to the edge of your seat as the winning cherry symbol comes up in the first position…second position…third position. Jackpot!
Congratulations on winning big in Las Vegas! Now that you are about to get your giant fake check you’ll want to know what happens next. You need to know how you will get the money, what to do with it, and how this will affect your tax return.
This is a huge moment, you just won big in Vegas. Keep reading to learn what to do if you win in Sin City.
What To Do If You Win In Las Vegas (What Happens?)
After the initial excitement of your big win, a number of things have to happen before you can get your money.
A Slot Technician Verifies Your Win
When you hit a big jackpot at a Las Vegas casino, the first thing that will happen is that the casino boss is going to call a technician from the control center. The technicians at the control center supervise all the casino’s slot machines via computer. The technicians must first confirm that you hit the jackpot.
A technician also has to come and inspect the winning machine itself to make sure that it did not mechanically malfunction. The jackpot winnings will be void if the slot machine or video machine is proven to be malfunctioning.
The Marketing Push Begins
At this point, someone from the casino will likely want to prepare a giant check for you. As much as the casino hates to give out money, they love to make a big deal about it when they do. The Vegas casino may also want to interview you and ask you about how you intend to spend your money.
Know that pictures and interviews are not required for you to get your money, and if you’re smart, you’ll decline the fanfare (no sense in making a target of yourself).
Now it’s time for the paperwork to begin. You will usually have to provide a valid form of ID, your social security number, and possibly the number of your bank account.
You’ll also need to fill out tax forms (more on taxes below), as the casino is required to report your windfall to the IRS if it is over a certain amount.
Getting Your Hands on Your Winnings
Once all of your paperwork has been processed, it’s time to get your money. The way that Vegas casinos do this depends on the size of the jackpot that you won. If it is a smaller jackpot (less than $5,000), the casino is likely to simply hand you cash.
If it is a huge jackpot (sometimes people win millions), you will not be able to physically transport all of your winnings as cash. This means that the casino will either send your money directly to your bank account, or they will write you a check.
You can choose to do both. You can have a portion of your winnings given to you in the form of cash, and you can have the rest sent to your bank account.
In addition to the difficulty of transporting a large amount of cash or casino chips, there are a few more advantages to getting your winnings in the form of a check or bank wire transfer. One advantage is that you will be less tempted to gamble away all of your winnings if it is slightly harder to access the money.
The other advantage is that you will be less of a target for criminals. You will be drawing a lot of attention to yourself if you hit a big jackpot at a Las Vegas casino and anything you can do to reduce your risk is a good thing.
You don’t want everybody in town to know that you’re carrying a large amount of cash on you, this will make you an obvious target.
You can even keep the giant fake check they give you if you want to. However, most people consider this to be too much of a hassle to hang on to and they leave it behind.
How Will Your Las Vegas Casino Winnings Get Taxed?
Of course, you will not be able to get your Las Vegas gambling winnings until you have filled out the proper tax paperwork. All jackpots over $1,200 are subject to taxes.
Unfortunately, gambling earnings are taxed at a high rate. You will have to forfeit as much as 24% of your winnings to cover taxes. With some games like slots, this tax is immediately withheld and sent to the IRS.
Interestingly, the casino is not obligated to withhold this money on all significant gambling winnings. They are only required to do this with games of chance, such as slot machines.
With other games, such as blackjack, you are responsible for reporting it yourself. This is because games like blackjack, craps, and roulette are considered games of skill instead of games of chance.
It is not necessarily clear why the IRS classifies these games this way. While craps and blackjack have the best player odds of any casino game and can certainly be seen as games of skill, this is not true of a game like roulette.
Roulette involves a significant amount of chance and actually has the worst player odds of any table game in the casino.
Of course, this 24% withholding is only an estimation of the tax that you will owe. When you file your tax return in the new year, you might find that you owe more or less.
How Do You Report Las Vegas Casino Gambling Wins?
When it comes time to prepare your tax return in the new year, you will report your gambling winnings and any tax that you have already paid on them under the “Other Income” section on your federal income tax return.
Note: It’s always recommended that you talk to a qualified tax accountant to make sure that you’ve handled things properly.
Las Vegas Gambling Winnings and State Taxes
How gambling earnings will affect your state income taxes will depend on the state you live in. Since Nevada doesn’t have an income tax, you won’t have to pay tax on any of your winnings to the state of Nevada.
However, the state that you reside in full-time will most likely want a piece of the action and require you to report your gambling winnings on your state income tax return.
Winners Get Perks and Privileges from Las Vegas Casinos
Nobody wants to think about taxes, but once you get that stuff out of the way, you can start enjoying the perks that come with winning a Las Vegas casino jackpot. These perks are a lot of fun, but they are actually for the casino’s benefit, not yours.
You see, jackpot winners are bad for business as far as the casino is concerned. They want to celebrate your win for marketing purposes, but they are only making money when you are losing it. This means that they are going to try to get as much of your winnings back as they possibly can.
After a big win, casinos will make you as comfortable as possible so that they can lure you into a false sense of security and get you to start gambling away the money that you just won.
They want you to gamble all of the money away before you leave, and they’ll do what they can to keep you spending in the casino as long as possible.
Some of the things that you can expect the casino to offer you include free rooms, free food, free drinks, and even free tickets to see live shows that the casino is hosting.
This can put you in a tricky spot, so you need to be careful. On one hand, you should enjoy all of the free stuff that the casino is offering you. On the other hand, you need to be careful that you do not blow all of your recent winnings.
Be Careful About Social Media After Winning a Jackpot
We live in a digital age where everything winds up on social media. However, you should be careful talking about your sweet victory on the internet.
Posting about how you just won the jackpot at a Las Vegas casino can make you a target for hackers, thieves, and swindlers who want your money. You can also expect a lot of friends and family to come out of the woodwork to ask if they can “borrow” money from you.
To avoid this problem, it is best if you do not say anything about your winnings on social media.
Use Your Vegas Winnings Wisely (Boring But Important Advice)
You had the extreme good fortune to do what most people never get to experience: going into a Las Vegas casino and walking away with way more money than you had going in. Now you should focus on spending the money wisely rather than partying it away.
Do you have any outstanding debts that you need to take care of? Are your living expenses taken care of? Do you have an emergency savings fund set up? It is a good idea to take care of these financial needs first before you start spending your Las Vegas winnings on the fun stuff.
This does not mean that you can’t have any fun with your money at all, just that you need to prioritize. Las Vegas is the most exciting party town in America, and it is all too easy to blow your money, even if you are not in a casino.
It is perfectly fine to go out and have fun treating your friends to dinner and drinks. Just remember to keep your eye on the tab and keep in mind that you probably will not be winning the jackpot again in this lifetime.
You had tremendously good luck winning it once. You should enjoy this, but do not squander the opportunity.
Now you know what to do if you win big in Las Vegas. Enjoy your victory but be careful with your winnings and be ready for the tax man.