Paddock “won” $5 million in jackpots in 2015, but that’s not the bottom line

The seemingly impressive figure generated big headlines.

“Las Vegas shooter declared $5 million gambling winnings,” Slate shouted.

“Las Vegas gunman earned millions as a gambler,” CNBC.com declared.

What followed were intriguing, but admittedly inconclusive reports on the video poker gambling activity of mass murderer Stephen Paddock. In recent days he’s been described by his girlfriend as “a kind, caring, quiet man” and by those who watched him in casinos as an antisocial alcoholic who qualified for a millionaire’s credit line because he played poker slots like a fiend.

When Paddock turned up downtown, he played for days at a stretch and caused enough of a stir to be remembered by veteran casino employees. On the Strip, he worked both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard, slamming multiple machines like a dervish, and occasionally winning tournaments. He piled up the comps and was welcomed as long as his bankroll held out.

He pumped up to $100,000 per hour through the machines, some media outlets breathlessly reported, apparently not fully appreciating the fact most of those machines had an extremely high rate of payout. Paddock amassed gambling “winnings” of $5 million in 2015 verified in IRS forms, but the number is misleading. Casinos by law issue issue a Form W-2G titled “Certain Gambling Winnings” to players who score jackpots and winnings subject to federal income tax withholding.

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