Gambler Jan Flato was gambling at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino with his lady friend. He was putting his money on the Double Top Dollar slot machine. Even though it was Flato’s cash and he was playing, it was his lady friend who actually pushed the button. So when the bells rang, the lights flashed and the pay line showed a $100,000 jackpot, Flato felt like a big winner but it was his lady friend who actually won.
When casino managers checked the video, it showed the woman, 35-year-old Marina Medvedeva Navarro, had actually put the reels in motion. This made her the rightful winner. When Marina found this out, on the night of January 31, she took the cash and hasn’t spoken to Flato since. Marina pranced out of the casino with a $50,000 check and another 50 grand in cash — after asking armed security to keep an eye on Flato as she left.
Flato, an experienced gambler who moved to Aventura about a year ago from Las Vegas to take care of his 88-year-old mother, is still angry and has an important consumer message for other slot players: Don’t let somebody else push your button or pull your handle. Flato said, “I want everybody to know what happened so it won’t happen to them. I’ve played slots all over the country and never had a problem like that. Even the people handing out the money said, ‘This isn’t right.’”
Flato says he was feeding cash into the Double Top Dollar machine, which requires $50 a spin for a shot at the $100,000 jackpot. He says he had met up with Navarro, with whom he frequently played slots, in the center bar, and the pair headed to the Hard Rock high-roller room, where he says he put money into the slot machine. “Push the button for good luck,” Flato says he told Navarro just before the jackpot hit.
Navarro has a different version of the happenings. She said she placed $400 in the machine, and offered to give Flato a slice of the win, but he didn’t take it. She declined further comment. Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner said the tribe keeps gambler information confidential and there would be no further comment, other than to state that the casino was simply following the rules created long before there was gambling in Florida — the pusher of the button is the winner of the cash.
Frank Legato, editor of Global Gaming Business magazine, who has testified as a legal expert in slots cases, says the rule is universal. “Pressing the spin button is really the act of making the wager,” he said. Flato said, “No one would take the case. Lawyers appear to agree. That jackpot money is long gone.”