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$2.9 million win caps lucky day for Bellevue couple

| Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When a Bellevue woman sat down next to her husband to play the slots at Wheeling Island casino, he joked that she would jinx his winning streak.

"You're like death to a slot machine," he told her.

Minutes later, they were millionaires.

At 11:58 p.m. on Friday, Nora Baden, 50, won $2.9 million.

The jackpot was the second-largest in the history of CA$HOLA, a multistate progressive video lottery game that derives a lump-sum jackpot from 237 slot machines at casinos in West Virginia, Delaware and Rhode Island.

Baden said Tuesday that she watched in disbelief as the five CA$HOLA symbols fell into place.

"I was feeling ill. I had to put my head down," said Baden, who promptly quit her job as a nurse at Children's Hospital.

By most measures, Friday already was pretty lucky for the Badens. Earlier in the day, she won $1,000 from a Pennsylvania Lottery scratch-off ticket.

So she and her husband Randy decided to visit Wheeling for the night to try to add to their winnings.

She was losing for most of the night, while he won a few hundred dollars here and there.

"I actually really wanted to go home," Nora Baden said.

But then her husband won about $710 at the penny slots, so he moved over to CA$HOLA.

"That's the funny thing," said Wheeling Island spokeswoman Kim Florence. "You could have someone sit there all day, and when they get up, the next person could win."

The largest CA$HOLA jackpot was claimed by Beverly Witten of Ohio, who took home $3.7 million from the Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in Newell, W.Va., on June 15. Both Mountaineer and the Wheeling casino are located about an hour's drive from Pittsburgh.

Baden said she wants her life to stay pretty much the same and will invest most of the money to ensure that her three children, ages 28, 24 and 13, have a comfortable future.

"We're not real impulsive people," she said.

On Sunday morning, Baden finished painting her living room -- a project she started before Friday.

"Well, it needs done," she said.

Laura Van Wert can be reached at lvanwert@tribweb.com .

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