Karen Christian spent years working in the travel industry, but now she's planning a dream vacation of her own. And she's got plenty of money to fund it.
Last week, Christian became the ninth millionaire in Caesar's Entertainment's weekly "Millionaire Maker" drawing in Tunica. For the past 10 weeks, Caesar's has awarded a million dollars each week to one lucky player at any of their three casinos — Harrah's Casino Tunica, Tunica Roadhouse, and Horseshoe Casino.
Although Caesar's owns casinos in other areas of the country, the million-dollar drawings are exclusive to Tunica. But since players don't have to be present when the winners are announced each Saturday night, winners have come from all over — Illinois, Ohio, Arkansas.
Christian was the first Memphis winner who chose to go public about her winnings. One winner before her from Memphis asked to remain anonymous.
To enter, one must have a Caesar's Total Rewards card. The card can be swiped at any of the participating Tunica casinos once daily. Additional entries can be earned as rewards for playing games.
"You can play and gamble, and we reward you for that. For every 10 base reward credits you earn, you can get an additional entry. Those who gamble with us at heightened levels will be rewarded with additional entries," said Jesse Keaveney, vice president of marketing for Caesar's.
So in other words, you play to win. And that's what Christian did. The week she won the drawing, Christian swiped her card every day at Horseshoe Casino. Before, she was swiping three to four times per week, when she had time to make the drive to Tunica. But last week, she spent several days vacationing there.
However, Christian wasn't there on Saturday night at 9 p.m. when her name was drawn. But it didn't take long for the news of her winning to reach her.
"I started getting texts from my friends, and that's how I first found out," Christian said. "Then I missed a call from a 702 area code, and I knew that was a Vegas area code. I called that number back, and I was nervous, nervous, nervous. When they told me, I was just like, 'Oh my goodness. I cannot believe this.'"
Christian called her mother first to relay the news. She said her dad was a little "overexcited."
"My phone has just been blowing off the hook. I wish I could get this much attention all the time," Christian said of the reaction from friends and family.
After Christian takes a vacation — likely a cruise, she said — she plans to invest some of the money.
Keaveney said he occasionally makes the calls to winners.
"There have been some really heartfelt stories. People have said this will help them pay off their house, or they weren't sure until now how they were going to be able to afford to retire," Keaveney said.
But things haven't turned out so well for every winner. One Cordova resident was disqualified after casino executives discovered the person who had swiped the winner's Total Rewards card was not the same person the card was registered to.
"We did redraw the week we disqualified someone," Keaveney said. "We weren't legally obligated to do so, but we wanted to make it right for the guests who had participated."
The million-dollar drawings will continue weekly though July 27th.