BONNER'S FERRY, ID - Okay, so here's my secret for how to win a random jackpot at a casino; don't try very hard. That's what worked for me.
Basically, the reason I was on the winning machine was because of the line-up at the cashier's wicket. There were five or six people between me and the cashier; they were trying hard not to look inconvenienced with what looked like enough coupons and vouchers in their hands to bankrupt the casino.
I sighed and looked around for a penny machine to bide my time. I have this "system" where I walk around and wait for one of the machines to "talk" to me. I'm not sure exactly what it is they tell me, though I have my suspicions that most of the time, they aren't above lying.
I started playing a machine that muttered something reasonably interesting within spitting distance of the wicket, one of those machines with a 40 cent minimum bet. When I plugged my player card in, the card slot glowed green and the digital readout said, "Hello, Bob!" So you can imagine how special I felt.
The machine featured lots of spinning and flashing, as well as catchy little riffs whenever I managed to win back five or ten cents. After about five minutes, I pressed the spin button and nothing happened. It wasn't that much had been happening up to then, but now it didn't seem to want to do anything. I pressed the button a few more times, and then a few more times, but it continued to ignore me. I stood up and rubbed at the back of my head, which I thought would be better than trying to press the button any harder.
By this time, the line-up at the wicket had dwindled. I looked over at the cashier, who was smiling. "I'll bet you're wondering what's wrong with your machine."
"Yeah," I said. "It doesn't seem to want my money."
"Well, maybe you should have a look at the readout."
It said something like CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE WON THE BIG SHOT BONUS! over and over. I watched this message go by a couple of times. "What does that mean?" I asked the cashier.
"That means you won twenty-seven hundred dollars!"
Well, not quite. What I won was twenty-seven hundred dollars with a thirty percent holdback that goes to the IRS. In the U.S., winning transactions over $1,200 are subject to a withholding tax. The withheld amount is listed in triplicate on a 1042-S form they give you with your payout.
In theory, you can get this money back if your estimated casino losses during the year are more than your winnings. This is spelled out in the U.S.-Canada Tax Treaty, Article XXII, Paragraph 3: "Losses incurred by a resident of a Contracting State with respect to wagering transactions the gains on which may be taxed in the other Contracting State shall, for the purpose of taxation in that other State, be deductible to the same extent that such losses would be deductible if they were incurred by a resident of that other State." I have to admit I got a little dizzy reading that.
Anyway, if that is the case, you are required to fill in a W-7 form to apply for an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and then fill in a 1040NR form, which is also called a US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. This five page form includes a Schedule NEC - Tax on Income Not Effectively Connected with a U.S Trade or Business. Yep, there's that dizziness again.
Apparently, there are companies that will handle all this paperwork for you in exchange for a commission of about 30 per cent. For some reason, 30 is a really popular number when it comes to gambling, so remember, if you plan on winning big in the U.S., try not to win all at once.