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Lunch break leads to millions

Chris Wellhausen/Tahoe TribuneLifelong South Shore resident Dovie Thomas won the Bill's Casino's largest jackpot on Saturday -- $3.8 million.
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A South Lake Tahoe woman won nearly $4 million Saturday at Bill’s Casino after cracking the jackpot on the Wheel of Fortune $1 slot machine.

Dovie Thomas, 24, decided to gamble $20 during a lunch break. She cleans rooms at Spruce Grove Cabins for a living.

A security guard had to tell her that she won the big one, $3.88 million. It is the largest jackpot in the history of Bill’s Casino, more than 15 years.



“I didn’t know it was that much money,” said Thomas, her face still flushed and eyes glazed with shock. “I thought it was $1,000 or $7,000.”

Thomas played two nearby slot machines before switching to a third machine. She bet $2 and it hit on the third pull.




Thomas, born at Barton Memorial Hospital and a 1997 graduate of South Tahoe High School, said she gambles occasionally when she has extra money, but usually she does it at night. On Saturday she decided to try playing slots about 3 p.m. because her friend recently won $700 playing during the day.

But what’s she going to do with the money?

“I don’t know, I’m overwhelmed,” Thomas said. “I’m going to help my parents pay for the house they built. And I want to pay my fines to get my license back.”

She has traffic fines she incurred when she was 16. She’s been paying them off slowly ever since.

Thomas has 60 days to decide if she wants her winnings in a lump sum or spread over 20 years. Thomas is leaning toward the 20-year payment plan, which means she would receive $136,000 a year after taxes.

Members of the Thomas family, and her boyfriend, stood by and waited for her to finish up paperwork for gaming officials. The first person she called to tell about her win was her sister.

“I couldn’t understand her,” said Sonya Thomas. “She kept saying, ‘I won $4 million.’ It took five times for me to understand. Then I said I would come pick her up.”

Joe Thomas, the millionaire’s father, was also confused by the news.

“All I heard was hollering,” he said. “I thought it was one of those Publisher’s Clearinghouse things. Then I heard she was at the casino and thought that maybe she did win.”

Thomas said she does not plan to quit her job. And after having had a little more time to think, she said she would probably use some of the money to buy a car once she gets her license back. She also wants to take her whole family — she has five older siblings — on a vacation.

“I want to take a family trip with all six of us kids and my mom and dad,” she said. “We haven’t done that in a long time. We should go to Disneyland. I don’t know.”

The last large jackpot at Bill’s came in 1998 when a woman won $1.2 million playing a 25-cent slot machine.

“I think it’s great people can come in here and win a big jackpot at a little casino,” said Tim Tretton, director of operations at Bill’s. “That’s why we have them there.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com


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