A Michigan woman is taking legal action against the MGM Grand Detroit casino after it refused to pay out a $127,000 jackpot she won playing progressive blackjack, accusing her instead of trespassing. The plaintiff, Denise Ezell, 65, has been a regular at the casino for over two decades, predominantly experiencing losses during her visits.

On October 30 of 2023, Ezell visited the casino with a friend to enjoy a session at the progressive blackjack tables. If you weren't aware yet, this version of blackjack allows players to place side bets, hoping their two cards will combine with the dealer’s to prompt a jackpot. Ezell's winning hand featured the king and jack of spades, while the dealer revealed the queen and ace of spades, resulting in a four-card straight flush that qualified her for the substantial payout.

Ezell felt exhilarated and she recounted to The Detroit Free Press that they were high-fiving, and even the dealer was excited. In fact, everyone around them was excited because no one had ever seen anyone win such a large jackpot.

A jackpot prize that went awry

However, when Ezell submitted her driver's license as identification, the casino management informed her that she would not receive the payout because she was trespassing. She was then asked to leave the premises.

The controversy stems from an incident in 2015 when Ezell was banned from the casino after being reproached for panhandling. But Ezell insists the situation was a misunderstanding - she explains that she had had an argument with her cousin, who had refused to lend her money after she started losing, despite their prearranged agreement to support each other financially when gambling together. According to Ezell, casino security misinterpreted this argument as her soliciting money from a stranger.

Upon being escorted out in 2015, Ezell claims she asked the security guard about the duration of the ban and was told it might last "maybe 24 or 48 hours." The lawsuit asserts that Ezell received no formal notification from the casino - via phone call, email, text message, or even letter - that she was banned from the property. In the interim, Ezell continued to visit the casino hundreds of times, with the establishment consistently accepting her money.

A communication error - and a complete disappointment

In the days following her big win, Ezell contacted the casino and spoke with a staff member who assured her not to worry about the trespassing claim and that her jackpot would be processed. However, the same staff member later informed her that the issue had escalated beyond his authority.

Ezell expressed her disappointment, saying, "I just thought when you won, they would pay you. When you lose, they take your damn money."

As of Thursday, the MGM Grand stated that it had not yet been formally served with the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on the matter. Ezell described the casino's justification for withholding her winnings as "bull***t."

The lawsuit highlights the ongoing debate about the rights of gamblers and the responsibilities of casinos, especially in cases where longstanding patrons face ambiguous or poorly communicated bans. Ezell's case will likely draw attention to how casinos enforce such bans and manage disputes involving large payouts.

As the legal proceedings unfold, Ezell hopes for a resolution that will see her rewarded for her luck at the blackjack table - and for casinos to handle similar situations with greater transparency and fairness in the future.