Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 12, 2002

'Aiea woman second jackpot winner in weeks

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Who said lightning can't strike twice in the same place?

On Dec. 12, David Tokunaga of Honolulu won a $2.5 million jackpot playing a Wheel of Fortune slot machine in the California Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Just 28 days later, a grandmother from 'Aiea outdid Tokunaga by winning a whopping $3,677,071 jackpot at the same hotel.

Hideko Sakamoto, 73, sat down at a 25-cent Wheel of Fortune machine less than two hours after arriving in Las Vegas Thursday night when she struck gold. Sakamoto said she had invested just $14.75 when the three Wheel of Fortune symbols lined up.

"That was really nice, a really nice surprise to me. I can't believe it," she said yesterday. "I couldn't sleep at all last night — adrenaline, the body not calmed down yet."

Sakamoto and her husband, Richard, are on a tour package with Vacations Hawai'i and were scheduled to return to home on Monday.

She said she has not yet decided whether to take a lump-sum payment or 20 annual installments of $183,000.

"My mother lived to 102. If I live as long as she did then I'll be able to collect all the money," said Sakamoto, who received a $183,000 payment Thursday night.

She added that should she die before receiving all the installments, the remaining money will go to her estate.

The Sakamotos have five children and 10 grandchildren.

Winning jackpots isn't uncommon in Las Vegas, but two strikes in the same casino just weeks apart is, said David Brendmoen, spokesman for Boyd Gaming Group, which operates the California Hotel.

"It's rare for any casino," Brendmoen said. "In recent memory, I can't remember two big hits happening so close together at the same resort. I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but in recent memory I can't remember it happening."

The Wheel of Fortune progressive slot machines are operated by International Game Technology, which runs 18 megajackpots in Nevada. The prize money is paid by ITG.

Sakamoto is taking her new millionaire status in stride.

She planned quiet celebrations with her brother, who arrived in Las Vegas last night, and a longtime family friend who lives there.

But she said she is anxious to return home.

"I'm looking forward to telling my story again to my children," Sakamoto said.