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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Moloka'i woman wins $8.9 million in Vegas

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

'Ukulele stylist Jake Shimabukuro and his younger brother Bruce knew the news had to be good if Grandma was calling from Vegas.

Amy Nishimura says she always plays "my machine" at the Fremont. It paid off yesterday.

Photo courtesy Fremont Hotel & Casino

"She said, 'Eh bruddah, I just hit an $8 million jackpot,' " Bruce Shimabukuro said of the call from his grandmother, Amy Nishimura. "At first, I didn't believe her."

Jake Shimabukuro, however, never doubted it for a moment.

"Grandma always wins something," he said. "Her secret is she always talks to the machine."

Nishimura, of Kaunakakai, Moloka'i, won $8,919,598 yesterday at the Fremont Hotel & Casino on the IGT Megabucks progressive slot, which costs $3 a spin to qualify for the jackpot payout.

Nishimura, who will celebrate her 71st birthday on Christmas Eve, arrived in Las Vegas Sunday night on a Vacations Hawaii charter.

Hitting it big

Some of Hawai'i's biggest recent slots winners, according to Advertiser news files:

• $11.9 million: John Tippin, Honolulu, Las Vegas Hilton, Jan. 27, 1996.

• $8.9 million: Amy Nishimura, Kaunakakai, Moloka'i; Fremont Hotel & Casino, Dec. 22, 2003.

• $5 million: Anonymous woman, Monte Carlo, June 15, 2002.

• $4.5 million: Anonymous woman, Waipahu, Mirage, May 29, 1999.

• $3.7 million: Hideko Sakamoto, 'Aiea, California Hotel and Casino, Jan. 9, 2002.

• $2.5 million: David Tokunaga, Honolulu, California Hotel & Casino, Dec. 12, 2001.

• $2.2 million: Anonymous woman, Maui, Main Street Station, July 1, 2002.

Her prize is believed to be the biggest won in Las Vegas slots by a Hawai'i resident since Honolulu postal worker John Tippin won $11.9 million in a Megabucks machine at the Las Vegas Hilton in January 1996.

She had played the slots for about three hours and had spent less than $100 before lining up the three megabucks symbols.

"That's my machine," Nishimura said in a Boyd Gaming news release. "Every time I come to the Fremont, this is the machine I play and now look — I'm a millionaire."

The Advertiser could not reach her for an interview yesterday.

Carol Shimabukuro said her mother's favorite slot machine is the red, white and blue 7s.

"She's always been lucky in Vegas," said Carol, the elder of Amy Nishimura's two children.

Nishimura called her grandsons at about 11:30 a.m. Hawai'i time yesterday.

"It's exciting, but I know it's not going to change any of our lives," Bruce Shimabukuro said.

Carol Shimabukuro said her mother used to own Amy's Lounge in Kaka'ako but sold it and moved to Moloka'i when she married the late Hajime Nishimura about 20 years ago.

"My grandma is the most energetic 70-year-old around," Jake Shimabukuro said.

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.