Gambler says he was denied $100K jackpot because friend pushed button

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jan Flato, 66, said he 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), Flato said. 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 the money gone.

"I want everybody to know what happened so it won't happen to them," he told the Miami Herald. "I've played slots all over the country and never had a problem like that."

Flato says the pair first met in 2015 and liked to gamble together.

Navarro, a mortgage broker, contested the story almost entirely. After Flato’s side of the tale went public, she went back on her initial refusal to comment. Navarro said 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 She said she made a “good faith” offer to share her winnings but rescinded them after receiving emails and text messages from Flato that she called “threatening.” One, according to Navarro, threatened her to “move back to Russia.”

Flato did not deny sending angry or threatening messages and conceded, “Of course, I was angry.”

The ongoing story, Navarro said, 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 follow-up story, which the newspaper dubbed “Jackpotgate.”