South Florida

She pushed the button, but it was his money. So who gets the Hard Rock $100,000 jackpot?

Jan Flato
Jan Flato pfarrell@miamiherald.com

Gambler Jan Flato supplied the money that went into the Double Top Dollar slot machine at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. But the woman who was nuzzling up to him pushed the button.

So when the bells rang, the lights flashed and the payline showed a $100,000 jackpot, Flato felt like a big winner.

He wasn’t.

When casino managers checked the video, it showed the woman, 35-year-old Marina Medvedeva Navarro, had actually started the slot wheels rolling, making her the rightful winner. Flato not only lost the cash, he has barely heard from his friend since she walked out that Jan. 31 night alone with a $50,000 check and another 50 grand in cash — after asking armed security to keep an eye on Flato as she left.

She sent him a text message a few weeks later asking, “Still hate me?” He responded: “How could you do that to me?” Her reply: “I miss you.”

READ MORE: Who paid to play? There’s a new spin in the Hard Rock slot-machine mystery

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.

“I want everybody to know what happened so it won’t happen to them,” said Flato, who added he first met Navarro at the high-roller room at Gulfstream Park in 2015. “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 told the Miami Herald a different version of the events. She said she herself placed $400 in the machine, and offered to give Flato a portion 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 loot.

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.

Lawyers appear to agree, Flato said.

“No one would take the case,” Flato said. “That jackpot money is long gone.”

Contact Nick Sortal at NickSortal@BellSouth.net

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