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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2001

Hawai'i man wins $2.5M playing slots in Las Vegas

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

David Tokunaga was playing a slot machine in Las Vegas yesterday when he lined up three Wheel of Fortune symbols.

"I thought I won $1,000," the Honolulu resident said.


With a crowd gathering around his machine at the California Hotel and Casino, Tokunaga soon found out that he had just won the progressive jackpot that stood at $2,534,434.74.

"Somebody came over and told me, 'You won the progressive. You won $2.5 million.' I said, 'Ah, nah, it couldn't be. I think I just won $1,000, or something.' "

But an official from International Game Technology confirmed that he had won a little more than just "something." ITG operates 17 megajackpots, such as the Megabucks slot machines, in Nevada.

"When he told me, I had no reaction. I was just stunned and didn't say anything," Tokunaga said.

Tokunaga said he doesn't usually play the $1 slot machines, but decided to give it a shot because "I had the money."

He said he was playing for about 45 minutes and put in about $100 when he hit the jackpot.

Tokunaga, 43, is an electrician and is in Las Vegas with his mother, Tamayo. The native of Kahului, Maui, said he goes to Las Vegas about once a year.

Prior to yesterday, Tokunaga said his biggest win in Las Vegas was $900 on a slot machine.

"I thought that was pretty good," he said.

Tokunaga will receive about $120,000 a year (before taxes) for the next 20 years. He said he hasn't decided what to do with the money, but said he definitely will continue to work.

Dave Brendmoen, spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corp., which runs the California Hotel, said Tokunaga's jackpot is "among the bigger ones" at the hotel.

The California is a popular destination for Hawai'i residents.

The new millionaire and his mother took a charter tour package with Vacations Hawai'i and will return tomorrow.

Tokunaga said he planned to celebrate his new found riches last night with a quiet dinner with his mother.