How Flato Lost the Jackpot
On the evening of January 31st 2017, Jan Flato and his friend Marina Medvedeva Navarro met up at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Fort Lauderdale. They headed to the high roller room to play the Double Top Dollar slot. What followed has caused controversy and divided opinions.
According to Flato, he had inserted his player card into the machine and was spending $50 per spin for a shot at hitting the jackpot. Whilst Flato paid for the spin, Navarro pushed the spin button, for good luck. When the reels hit the $100k jackpot, Flato naturally felt that he was a winner. However, the joy soon turned into despair when casino managers handed the payout to his friend.
They had checked video footage of the jackpot-winning spin and identified that Navarro had started the spin, making her the rightful winner. She was handed $50,000 in cash and the other half of the money as a cheque. She then left the casino, asking the security staff to watch Flato as she went. She did not share any of the jackpot win with the friend, who had actually paid for the spin.
Flato’s Warning to Gamblers
Jan Flato shared his story with the Miami Herald, to caution other gamblers. In his opinion, as he had paid for the spin, he should have been awarded the jackpot. Yet, a spokesperson for the casino explained that the person who pushes a button or pulls the lever is technically the person who has made the wager and won the jackpot.
”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.”Jan Flato
According to Flato, it is a rule that gamblers are unlikely to be aware of. Yet industry experts have confirmed the rule is universal when it comes to slots. Frank Legato, who has appeared as an expert in slots related court cases confirmed that “Pressing the spin button is really the act of making the wager”. Flato also explained that he is unable to fight against the ruling as he could not find a lawyer who would agree to take the case. He resided himself to the fact that he would not get his hands on any of the winnings.
The Other Side of the Story
Marina Medvedeva Navarro’s version of events throws a different light on the story. Following the release of Flato’s interview, Navarro also spoke to the same newspaper to give her own account of what had happened. She confirmed that they had become friends in 2015 whilst playing high stakes casino games at Gulfstream Park, and that they had headed to the high roller room at the Hard Rock Casino on 31st January. The rest of her account of that evening varies significantly though compared to Flato’s.
She claims that it was, in fact, her own money that was wagered, after putting her winnings from a smaller jackpot into the slot machine. She inserted Flato’s player club card however, so that he would get the comp points and the extra perks that would entail. She went on to say that Flato was aware of the rule that the person who presses the button is the winner. In fact, she explained that when they had played Video Poker at Gulfstream, he would ask her to place her fingers on top of his for luck, as that would mean any jackpot would remain legally his.
Navarro explained that she had planned to give a portion of the winnings to Flato, but his behaviour changed her decision. She described how he went “ballistic” when she was awarded the prize, and that is why she asked the security guards to escort her out. Navarro stated that Flato had sent her threatening and insulting messages, which he did not deny.
“I never thought it would turn into such a disaster.”Marina Medvedeva Navarro
She also received an avalanche of hateful comments on her Facebook page as well as phone calls from angry gamblers who had somehow got hold of her number. She was also contacted by several TV stations regarding the story. Despite describing herself as being a professional, married mother, Navarro was depicted as a gold digger and a thief with loose morals.
The Universal Rule and the Moral of the Story
Regardless of the version of events, the fact remains the same. It does not matter who pays for the spin, it is ultimately the person who presses the button that wins. In this case, Marina Medvedeva Navarro was the winner and Jan Flato learned an expensive lesson when he asked his friend to hit spin for good luck. Whilst not one of the biggest gambling losses of all time, still more than enough to really sting.
Navarro has caused outrage among gamblers for not sharing the jackpot. Yet you have to wonder how much Flato’s reactions and behaviour influenced her decision. How would you react in a similar situation? If you landed $100,000 on a technicality, would you part with the cash?
Jackpotgate highlights the lesser known casino winnings rule and acts as a cautionary tale to gamblers. Next time you’re playing a slot machine, either make sure you truly trust the person you’re with, or simply press the button yourself!