Alabama Man Turns Mississippi Jackpot Into Gold

Chris Loewen sat at a table in a Foley, Alabama bar. His mind wandered back to 2003. He was asked what May 21, 2003 meant to him.

"It was the most awesome day of my life," he said, a huge smile crossing his face. "An unbelievable day, you know. Something I'll never forget."

May 21st was the day Chris Loewen sat at a Biloxi progressive slot machine, and struck it rich.

"Oh my God. It was $17 million 784 thousand," he started to say, pausing because he realized $17 million was a bit off.

Time apparently turned Loewen's jackpot into one of those great fishing tales, because the Mobile man only won $13,789,894.29 million.

"I'm sorry. $13 million," he laughed. "Gosh, I can't remember now. I don't even remember. It was $13.8 million. They rounded it off to $13.8 million."

And since Loewen accepted the one time lump sum option, $13.8 became $9.5 million, $6 million after Uncle Sam paid a visit.

"It's changed my life," he said. "A lot of people say money won't change you, and money won't do this and do that. It's changed a lot. But in a lot of aspects, I'm the same way."

For instance, Loewen still enjoys occasional trips to the Isle of Capri. His most recent visit was just before this interview. And he won $40,000.

The bigger win was exactly two years ago. Loewen initially spent his multi-million dollar fortune at home. He bought a condo in Orange Beach, Alabama. And he went car shopping.

"I ended up buying mostly cars and trucks for everybody in my family," he said, pointing out that he bought himself a Hummer.

After the car shopping spree, Loewen plopped down more than a million dollars to buy and open the Banana Monkey. He was asked what it was like being able to just write a check for a million dollars, not have any debt over your head, and run the business like this?

"It's awesome, it really is," he said.

Loewen stumbled upon the Banana Monkey drink in the Caribbean, on a trip he could only afford because of his jackpot. He liked the drink so much, he named his Foley, Alabama bar in its honor.

"This is a great place to come and have fun," he said, sounding more like a salesman than a multi-millionare. "We have a lot of monkey business that goes on here."

Not everything has been perfect for Loewen since his jackpot win. Plenty of people he barely knew concocted schemes to hit him up for some cash. And he filed for divorce. But for a 56 year old who was once out of work, the good has far outweighed the bad.

"When I used to go to the bank, it seemed like the teller would talk down to me," he remembered. "Now the president of the bank talks up to me. In that aspect, it's a totally different ballgame."

Loewen admits his win was all about luck and good fortune.  Not everybody at a casino has that sort of luck.

Gambling addictions plague anywhere from five to seven percent of the people who tempt lady luck.  If you have a gambling problem, or you know somebody who does, contact the Mississippi Council on Compulsive Gambling.  That number is 1-888-777-9696.