Jan Flato, 66, put $50 into a video slot machine at Florida’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in January. He hit, and hit big: $100,000 before taxes.
But he can’t keep a dime of it; casino rules say he didn’t personally hit the jackpot. According to Flato, after he put his payment card into the machine, he let former friend Marina Navarro push the button for him. “For good luck,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. Well.
The 35 year-old Navarro then took the receipt to the casino and walked out with every dollar (after taxes). Managers at Seminole Hard Rock as well as industry experts say it’s hers to keep: A longstanding rule in the gambling industry says the winnings belong to the person who places the bet, not the person who pays for it.
That means Navarro, who technically placed the bet by pushing the slot machine’s button, is the winner and is entitled to every dollar. According to Flato, she walked out that night with her winnings and asked security to keep him away from her. Flato, a longtime gambler, says it’s a cautionary tale and that he considers that money gone.
Flato says the pair first met in 2015 and liked to gamble together.
Navarro, a mortgage broker, contests the story almost entirely. After Flato’s side of the tale went public, she went back on her initial refusal to comment. Navarro says she paid for the slots, and there was “never a question” that it was her money. The pair was elated when Navarro won, but that changed when casino officials “came down to give me the jackpot and he went ballistic,” she said. She says she made a “good faith” offer to share her winnings but rescinded them after emails and text messages from Flato that she says are “threatening.” One, according to Navarro, threatened her to “move back to Russia.”
Flato has not denied sending angry or threatening messages and concedes, “Of course I was angry.”
The ongoing story, she says, has her husband (!) angry that their names are being dragged through the process. “[Flato] is playing with my honor,” she told the Miami Herald in the followup story, which they’ve dubbed “Jackpotgate.”