A couple of days before he hit a jackpot of nearly $3 million, Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt learned he’d been accepted as a bone marrow donor to an anonymous patient.
“They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it, because it’s kind of painful, but what’s a little pain if it will save someone’s life?” the U.S. Marine said Friday. “I look at this as kind of good karma for that.”
Degenhardt’s karma was worth more than $2.8 million, the second biggest jackpot for Bally Technologies, which manufactures the games and pays out the jackpots.
The 26-year-old hit the $2,882,808.32 score about 7 p.m. Sunday on the Money Vault Millionaires Seven slot at the Bellagio.
The penny slot, which takes bets from 40 cents to $2, has been building a progressive jackpot in casinos across Nevada for the past six months.
Players in California, Florida, Mississippi and New Jersey also have been vying for the progressive payout, which started at $1 million.
Degenhardt and several fellow Marines had flown in from Washington D.C., where he is stationed, for training at Nellis Air Force Base. He said he and a buddy decided to kill a couple of hours at the casinos while waiting for their plane to leave over the President’s Day weekend. He stuck a $100 bill into the machine and figured he’d lose it quickly. He’d never won more than $200 in credits before hitting almost $3 million.
“Dude, what just happened?” Degenhardt remembers asking his friend.
“You just won,” the buddy told him.
“Cool,” Degenhardt said.
He was stunned.
“It’s something you always want to happen, but when it does happen you don’t believe it,” he said.
Degenhardt will receive about $100,000 a year over 20 years. He said he plans to first help his sister, who is pregnant, and his mother catch up on bills.
He also plans to go through with the marrow donation, which is on track to happen in the next six months after an extensive testing process.
As for some of that money burning a hole in his pocket, Degenhardt decided to buy himself some clothes — at a thrift store, where he buys all of his clothes. And he said he won’t be parting with his car that has rolled up some 250,000 miles.
“I plan to keep driving it until I can’t anymore,” he said. “No sense in wasting money. I’m really pretty thrifty.”
But he’s glad he put that $100 into the slot.