FORMAN, N.D. — Orville Erickson could hardly believe it but his wife, Dorothea, says she "just had a feeling" it might be a lucky weekend.
Orville Erickson hit a $2.98 million jackpot on a nickel slot machine Saturday at the Dakota Magic Casino near Hankinson. Slots manager Darrell Mireau said it was the largest jackpot in the casino's 11-year history.
"I still can't hardly believe it," Orville Erickson, 63, said Monday from the couple's farm a mile north of Forman.
Erickson and a friend were in Fargo on Saturday to get material to build a new ice fishing house when he got the call from his wife, who had returned from a family gathering in New Rockford.
"I had actually been to a casino there at Devils Lake," she said, "and I was home about an hour, and I thought, 'Gee, we should go to Hankinson tonight.' And then I thought, 'Well, that's kind of dumb, I was just at a casino' But I just had a feeling."
Her husband said he was feeling lucky, too.
He said he usually puts $20 into the Marilyn Monroe MegaJackpot machine, a 75-nickel progressive slot machine with a starting jackpot of $400,000.
Saturday, he stuck a $100 bill in the machine, planning to play $20 whether he won or lost, he said.
The machine paid out about $75 before he pushed the button around 11:30 p.m. and the "Diamond Cinema Jackpot" symbols aligned, he said.
"I was just playing along, and all of a sudden it went black and said 'hand-played jackpot,' " he said. "It was just dead quiet, no whistles or anything.
"I stood up and said, 'No way, I don't believe this."'
Dorothea Erickson, 58, was about six machines away when an acquaintance told her she'd better talk to her husband.
"And I said, 'How come?' And he said, 'Well, he just won $2.98 million.' And I said, 'Yeah, right,"' she recalled.
Booked into a suite
The casino booked the couple into a suite while officials verified the jackpot, which took until about 6:30 a.m., Orville Erickson said.
"We got about a half-hour of sleep," he said.
The casino presented the Ericksons with a check for $141,950 - the first of 21 installments over 20 years, unless they choose to take the one-time payment. On Monday, they were still considering that option.
Saturday's jackpot was the sixth MegaJackpot awarded at Dakota Magic Casino and the largest paid. The casino paid a $1,045,584 Wheel of Fortune MegaJackpot on a $1 machine in October 2004, a statement from gambling machine and system supplier IGT said.
The Ericksons, both natives of nearby Milnor, have lived for more than 40 years just north of Forman, a Sargent County city about 90 miles southwest of Fargo.
The couple said they plan to use their winnings to travel to Australia, pay bills and fix up their house. Orville Erickson said he also will build that new fishing house.
"I got a lot of good plans for that," he said.
He said he won't close their business, K&L Sandblast and Painting, named for their two grown children.
"I've got work lined up for all winter," he said. He wants to keep his five employees working, he said.
Orville Erickson said he spent four years in the Navy and served during the Vietnam War as a helmsman aboard the USS Midway aircraft carrier.
"My ship has come in, finally," he said.
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