I Won a Jackpot in Vegas, Now What?

Jackpot Slot

There are two types of people most likely reading this blog, and I think both of them are awesome. Some of you may be glass half full super optimists that are headed off to Sin City anticipating winning a huge jackpot. The rest of you are probably the lucky ducks that just struck it big and are trying to figure out what the heck to do next. For those of you in the first category, just let that sink in for a minute. Someone else reading this blog right now may have just won thousands if not millions of dollars!

Regardless of which of those categories you fall into, you’re all here for the same information. What the heck happens and what the heck should you do after you win a major Las Vegas jackpot? Well, have no fear, because I am going to walk you through the logistics and procedures of what happens next, as well as some suggestions to make the most out of your big win.

The Payout Procedure

The first thing I want to talk about is the payout procedure. Surprisingly, the casino does not just wheel out a big red wagon filled with hundred-dollar bills (unless you want them to) to pay your big win. Typically, what is going to happen is the casino staff will be alerted that a major jackpot needs to be paid out. They have systems to do this, or they can always go the old-fashioned way and look for all the screaming people.

Once you are congratulated on your jackpot, they’ll begin working their procedures for getting you paid out. Yes, you’re going to have some paperwork to fill out because Uncle Sam wants to make sure to get his cut if you’re from the US. We’ll get to the paperwork in a second, but first, let’s talk about your options for receiving your money.

You’ll have the option to take your win in cash, casino chips, check, bank wire, or some combination of these options. If it’s a massive jackpot, it’s going to be pretty obvious that you’re going to want to have the money paid out in a check or a bank wire because you physically won’t be able to carry all of the cash (nice problem to have). If it’s a smaller jackpot, though, you may be tempted to take the payout in chips or cash.

In fact, the casino is probably going to encourage you to take it that way. Why is that? Well, they are going to want a chance to get their money back by having you spend it or gamble some more. If they give you your money back in chips, you can easily start gambling it right away. This is significantly more difficult if the money is wired to your bank account or given to you in the form of a check.

Ultimately the decision is going to be up to you, but here is what I recommend. Take most of your winnings in a check or bank wire and then take a small percentage of your winnings to celebrate with. That way, you aren’t tempted to gamble or spend more money than rational-you would like to. You’ll see later that I am a strong advocate for celebrating and enjoying your winnings, but I’m also a strong advocate for remembering who you are and your life situation. If you’re not someone who is rich or wealthy already, you’re probably going to want to take a lot of that money home and use it in your “normal” life.

Taking your money this way is also a great security measure. When you win a big jackpot in a Vegas casino, they are going to want to make a big spectacle of it. Why? Well, when you see people winning big jackpots, it entices you to want to gamble. Big jackpot winners in the flesh are the single greatest piece of marketing the casinos have. This also means that you will be highly visible to criminals and thieves who will know that you now have a lot of extra money which makes you a good target.

The Tax Man

Before you’re given your winnings though, in any form, you’re going to have to fill out some forms and settle things up with the tax man. For those of you from the US, you’re going to be given a W2-G for your winnings. This is a form that the casino will turn into the IRS to let them know how much money you’ve made. It’s similar to the W2 you would receive from employment but specifically for gambling winnings.

The criteria for receiving a W2G are as follows according to TaxSlayer:

  • $600 or more in gambling winnings with the payout being at least 300 times the amount of the wager
  • $1200 or more in winnings from bingo games or from slot machines
  • $1500 or more in winnings from playing Keno
  • $5000 or more in winnings from a poker tournament

The casino is most likely going to withhold winnings for federal taxes at a flat rate of 25% or 28% if you don’t provide your tax ID number to them. If for some reason they do not, please for the love of everything remember that you are going to have to pay taxes on that money so don’t go blow it all on silly stuff. Set 1/3 of it aside and you should have plenty to cover the tax bill with some left over.

The casino may also withhold money for state income taxes. If you are gambling in a state with state income tax, but you don’t live there, you will get that money back eventually from the IRS, but you may be required to claim it. The best advice in that situation is to talk to a tax man because I am certainly not one and should not be listened to as if I am one. Just for the record, Nevada (where Las Vegas is) does not have state income tax, so this does not apply there.

Just remember that these winnings are going to have to be reported on your federal income taxes and you will have to pay taxes on them regardless of whether or not the casino withheld money or not.

The bottom line best advice here, though, is to immediately reach out to an accountant/tax specialist if you find yourself winning a sizeable jackpot. It will only cost you a couple hundred bucks and could save you thousands or from making a huge mistake. You don’t have to give them control of the money or anything like that; just call them up and get some consultation advice on what you should be doing. When the money is big enough, you need to protect yourself and your winnings.

Casino Perks

The last section was certainly a drag, but again it’s a nice problem to have. Let’s flip to something a bit more positive. What I want to talk about now is some of the fun stuff that is most likely going to happen when you win a big jackpot in Vegas. Casinos are not built off of winners. While they do like seeing people win big for marketing purposes, they really want to try and get their hands back on as much of that money as they possibly can.

As I mentioned earlier, the way they do this is by trying to entice you to gamble that money back. If you’re a small limit player and you now have hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, they’re going to hopefully get you to start betting bigger and taking more risks with that money. If they had their way, you would gamble all of that money back to them before you walked out the doors. Keep that in mind.

Specifically, they’re going to do things to accommodate you and get you to stay in the casino longer. They’re most likely going to offer you free rooms, free food, free alcohol, and free show tickets. Keep in mind that all of this is designed to keep you inside the casino longer. That being said, take advantage of it! Enjoy the freebies!

Friends, Family, and Mooches

We definitely live in a social media world where people love to share anything and everything that happens to them. While I think that is all well and good, you may want to hold your horses before you post about your big jackpot win. Here’s why. Winning a big jackpot is pretty much the same as winning the lottery, and if you’ve ever read any interviews with lottery winners you know that one thing is always true; people always come out of the woodwork asking for money.

Friends, family, and people you barely know are going to pop up and ask to borrow some money, have you pay for something, or invest in their new invention or business idea. As someone who has made a lot of money from gambling, I can 100% attest to this being true.

Now, you may have no choice to keep things under wraps because people with you are going to know and they’re probably going to tell everyone for you. Or you may be so excited that you want to tell everyone and that is totally okay too! The only point I am trying to make here is to prepare yourself for people coming to ask you for money. It’s up to you whether or not you give it to them, but I would recommend saying no to everyone initially and then making more rational decisions with your money when you get back home and have time to reflect on how you want to use it.

This does not mean you can’t buy drinks for everyone or take everyone out to dinner! I’m simply referring to bigger ticket requests. Do what you want to do with your money. Good friends and family should never expect for you to do anything for them with your winnings. They can be grateful when and if you do, but they should never expect or demand it.

Don’t Forget Life Back Home

The absolute biggest and most important piece of advice I can give you if you win a big Vegas jackpot is to remember who you are. Now, I’m not talking about some sort of theoretical “remember where you came from” life lesson type of thing. I’m specifically referring to your at-home financial state. If you win a $10,000 jackpot and you have $20,000 of credit card debt back home, I’d highly recommend continuing your trip as if you didn’t win anything and send that money back home to use for your credit card bill.

I’ve actually seen friends come to town who don’t have the greatest of financial situation win a big jackpot and proceed to blow most of the money on “the most epic Vegas trip ever.” Was their trip epic? It was, but did they instantly regret it the second they got on the plane to go home? Yup. Vegas does an incredible job of putting you in a trance, almost an out-of-body experience while you are here. They make you feel like a big shot high roller, and this becomes even truer when you win big.

You have to ground yourself and remember that in a few days you’ll be heading back home and that money might serve you a whole heck of a lot better back home.

Live a Little

To make sure that you don’t think I’m a complete square or Debbie-downer, I felt it was important to add this last tip in here. It is completely okay to live a little when you win a big Vegas jackpot. Let me say that again with some specific words bolded though…it is completely okay to live a little when you win a big Vegas jackpot.

The operative term here is “a little”. Yes, you should enjoy your winnings when you strike it big in Vegas, but that doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend all your winnings on a few fun nights. Take your friends out to dinner, buy some new clothes, upgrade your room, see a few extra shows, take a helicopter tour…these are all fun things you can do that aren’t going to break the bank or rip through your jackpot winnings.

Of course, all of this is dependent on the size of your jackpot, but I’m hoping you’re able to use enough discretion there. If you win millions of dollars, you can afford to celebrate a little hard than if you win a $5,000 jackpot.

The Takeaway

I’m hoping I didn’t completely sound like your mother in this post, but I want to make sure that you’re set up to fully enjoy your Vegas jackpot winnings without doing something that you’re going to later regret. I also hope that everyone reading this article has to deal with all of these “problems” one day because it means that you struck it rich in Sin City!

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.