Woman clashes with casino over a jackpot denied

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) -- It’s an exciting moment when the bells go off in a casino because that means a player won a jackpot. But that joy of winning quickly turned to disbelief for an Omaha woman when the jackpot was denied.

Playing a penny slot at Ameristar in Council Bluffs, Tamara Bean won $1,733.

“It’s the first time I’ve won in 15 years and now magically they’re going to say you don’t get your money.”

In 2002 the casino banned her after discovering a controlled substance in her purse that she says was some pot.

“They haven’t shown me anything to state I wasn’t allowed in there.”

Ameristar says it has a ban notice signed by Tamara Sheffield in 2002. But she’s gone back many times with a valid driver’s license for Tamara Bean.

Bean said, “I’m not lying. That’s my married legal name.”

A big winner needs to show a Social Security number and that’s when the ban popped up under her maiden name and the jackpot was denied.

Tamara asked the Iowa Racing and Gaming commission to investigate and it ruled the withholding of the $1,700 jackpot was not arbitrary and the state can’t force the casino to pay her.

The case is similar to another in which a player won $9,000 after being banned at Prairie Meadows. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled gambling created a contract between player and casino so Prairie Meadows had the authority to withhold winnings.

But Tamara Bean said since Ameristar gave her a Rewards Card months before the jackpot she deserves to get it.

“They took my money for all these years, so why wouldn’t you give me the money that I legally own?”

Banned as Tamara Sheffield, Tamara Bean said she never tried to cheat the system. She just got married.

Ameristar says the Gaming Commission makes it clear the casino has no duty to ensure the banned player is not on the premises. Casinos don’t require Social Security numbers for a Loyalty Rewards Card. That means a banned player using another name may not be discovered until they win and must provide a Social Security number.