Slot machines at Graton Resort and Casino hit by outage, patrons wait hours for payouts

A network problem struck the Graton Resort and Casino, where guests described confusion on the gaming floor late Friday when many players were unable to automatically cash out their winnings at slot machines.

Casino employees scrambled to hand-deliver payouts during the outage. Patrons at the casino outside Rohnert Park said they waited up to four hours before they could get their winnings after the slot and video poker machines wouldn’t print payout slips.

Frustrated and furious, some vented online on Facebook and Yelp. Others simply abandoned their machines.

“I gave up. I left my money to someone else,” said Mike Ireton, a Santa Rosa resident who left the casino after midnight without his winnings of $101.50.

Ireton, 49, said he was tired and needed to use the restroom after waiting nearly three hours for his money, but there was no relief in sight. He estimated up to 1,000 patrons were waiting for their cash, he said.

“It was practically everybody,” said Ireton, owner of a high-speed internet service company based in Mendocino County. “There were people sitting there waiting for $5.”

A casino spokeswoman attributed the breakdown to a network error that occurred sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m., causing problems with automatic payouts at the slot and video poker machines.

Lori Nelson, spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based Station Casinos, which operates the Graton casino, said she didn’t know what caused the error, or how many people had to wait for an employee to pay them out.

She said the network issue was resolved some time overnight.

“Although it may have taken more time than usual for the payout, we were pleased that we were able to institute a manual payout,” Nelson said. “We do apologize for the inconvenience to our guests.”

The casino has 3,000 slot and video poker machines, according to its website.

Guests were able to continue to play the games, although the machines weren’t printing out the payout slips, Nelson said.

Asked if patrons who left their machines can still claim their winnings, she responded, “while we have not been contacted by any guests who chose not to wait for one of our team members to manually pay them out, we certainly encourage any guest who did, to contact us via our website submission option as we’ll be able verify through their player’s card and assist them.”

Rob Kirby, a certified public accountant, was taking a dinner break when he decided to test his luck at the slot machines Friday night. The Santa Rosa man slipped a ?$100 bill into a machine and was ready to call it quits around ?9:30 p.m. after nearly tripling his money, but when he tried to cash out a “call attendant” message popped up on the machine.

“I waited and noticed that around me there were many other machines with that same message,” said Kirby, 68.

He waited about a half-hour before calling his wife, who already was in bed, to come watch the machine while he raced over to his office around the corner on Commerce Boulevard to file a client’s tax return by the Sept. 15 deadline. When he returned to the casino at 10:30 p.m., his wife still hadn’t received any money. So, Kirby pulled out a book to read and waited.

“At about 11:30 p.m., an employee came around paying me out in cash,” he said. “All throughout the casino, all the machines were blinking. There were abandoned machines all over the place.”

He said people still were pouring into the casino to play on the machines, unaware of the problem. “It was unfair to people,” Kirby said.

Nelson, however, contends staff informed people as soon as they learned of the problem.

“We stationed our security staff at all our entrances. We had (them) greet guests and inform them of the issue, so that they were aware they were welcome to play slot machines but payouts would be handled manually,” she said.

As someone in the tech industry, Ireton said he doesn’t fault the casino for the network error. However, he said it should have been more organized. He said employees scrambled around him, but no one stopped to help.

“It wasn’t very systematic,” he said. “They should have had a better response.”

The resort and casino, opened in 2013, is owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

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