A PENSIONER is embroiled in a bitter fight with the Adelaide Casino over a $105,000 jackpot she won playing the pokies.
The casino has refused to pay 75-year-old Cecelia Cubillo the money because she won it after playing a $1 credit on a gaming machine that was not being used. After admitting she won the $105,731.75 jackpot using the $1 credit on the abandoned «Fort Knox» machine, casino security staff accused Ms Cubillo of being a thief, describing her actions in playing the abandoned credit as «theft by finding».
A week later, though, the casino gave her a $250 food and drink voucher as a goodwill gesture. Ms Cubillo, an Aboriginal elder who has two university degrees and worked for ATSIC in Canberra and Adelaide before she retired, has lodged a complaint with Liquor and Gambling Commissioner Paul White, who has launched an investigation.
A senior Government legal source has told the Sunday Mail that the investigation has raised a legal question concerning the ownership of abandoned credits on gaming machines and the consequences of those credits being played.
As a result, Mr White has conducted a formal review of the case and has now requested a legal opinion from Crown Solicitor Greg Parker.
Ms Cubillo arrived in Adelaide in 1974 with her five girls after being evacuated from Darwin following Cyclone Tracy. Her mother, noted elder Hilda Jarman Muir, was one of the Stolen Generation who took their case to the High Court in 1995.
When contacted by the Sunday Mail, Ms Cubillo said she went to the casino — which has just won the Major Tourist Attraction category in the SA Tourism Awards — on May 6 last year after visiting friends.
She does not drink or smoke and said she enjoyed playing the pokies «every few weeks or so when I have a few spare dollars». «To me, it was just fun, an outlet,» Ms Cubillo said. «I like the bright lights of the casino.»
Ms Cubillo said on the May 6 visit she had only $7 with her. She played several machines before moving to the «Fort Knox» machine. She noticed there was a single $1 credit on the machine and to clear it, had played the credit.
«That is when all the lights and noises started on the machine and the jackpot came up,» she said.
After speaking to an attendant, she was told a cheque would be arranged — but then the casino’s gaming operations manager and security guard became involved.
Ms Cubillo admitted she had played a credit that was already on the machine. Surveillance videos showed a man had been playing the machine.
Ms Cubillo said she was shocked when a female security guard then accused her of being «a thief» and said she would not be paid the jackpot.
«She told me it was theft by finding and I started to get scared that the police would be called and take me away,» she said.
«It was very intimidating and overwhelming. I was scared that they would come and arrest me.
«I didn’t steal anything, I didn’t do anything other than play the credit on the machine and they accused me of theft.»
Ms Cubillo said after being confronted and interviewed by security staff and a manager, she had left feeling «bewildered, intimidated and overwhelmed».
She returned to the casino a week later, accompanied by her daughter, and met gaming machine operations manager Frank Edwards.
She was again told the jackpot would not be paid and was given a $250 voucher for food and drinks.
«If I was not entitled to anything, why did they give me the $250 voucher?,» she said.
«I have not used it and I will never go back to the casino.»
Ms Cubillo has engaged an advocate, who is pursuing the matter.
«My parents brought me up with solid values and taught me principles, values and beliefs,» she said.
«I am not a thief. I have never had a parking ticket in my life.»
«I have worked hard in life to get the best for my children and I am not a dishonest person. I have done nothing wrong at all.»
In a statement to the Sunday Mail on Friday, Adelaide Casino general manager David Christian said the casino «operates in a highly regulated and controlled environment».
«The statutory scheme prohibits customers stealing credits left on gaming machines,» he said.
«At all times, Adelaide Casino followed its legal requirement, to the letter, and was therefore required to deny Ms Cubillo the jackpot.
«The entire amount of this jackpot was reseeded into the jackpot pool and was then legitimately won by a customer a week later.»