Picture the following scenario.
You don’t have any plans for the upcoming Friday night, so you convince one of your friends to join you on a visit to the local casino.
Before beginning your night out, you strike a deal that for the evening you will merge together your bankrolls and then at the end of the night you will equally split any winnings.
So, you both arrive with £200 and sit down at an unoccupied slot machine. First you load up your bankroll into the machine and then take it in turns to spin the reels.
You have inserted your player card into the machine, to ensure that you have your play tracked in the hope of receiving a comp or two before the end of the evening. It’s quite clearly your money that is being gambled with.
Then on the ninth spin, your friend pushes the button and the reels start spinning. Five seconds later, the reels are perfectly aligned and the machine’s jackpot of £100,000 has been won.
However, the jackpot doesn’t belong to you. It is given to your friend. They leave with £50,000 in cash and another £50,000 as a cheque and you don’t hear from them again.
This may sound like a bad dream, even a nightmare for some. Yet for experienced gambler Jan Flato, he believes something along these lines became a reality last year.
Flato told the Miami Herald that he had known Marina Medvedeva Navarro for around two years and the pair frequently played slots together. On the night in question, they were playing at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The pair made their way to the Hard Rock roller room and specifically to the Double Top Dollar machine.
To stand a chance of winning the $100,000 jackpot, players are required to stake $50 on every spin. The 66-year-old said that it was he who was feeding cash into the slot and only asked his gambling buddy to “push the button for good luck”.
All of a sudden the machine went into overdrive in terms of bells and lights, before the payline confirmed that the jackpot had been landed.
Having consulted video footage, the casino determined that Navarro was the rightful jackpot winner. She was handed half the winnings in cash, the other half as a cheque, and then she left, telling armed security to keep an eye on the behaviour of Flato as she did so.
He stated to the paper: “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.’
“I want everybody to know what happened so it won’t happen to them.”
Navarro agrees with the first half of Flato’s account, having met up with him inside the casino after losing a few hands of blackjack.
However, the 35-year-old argues that she had placed a $400 voucher into the Double Top Dollar machine, which was her winnings from landing a much smaller jackpot on another slot.
She told the Miami Herald: “We yelled and screamed and hugged. We were very happy.
“They took about 15, 20 minutes, and [Flato] was already dividing the money. Then they came down to give me the jackpot and he went ballistic.”
She added that her plan was to give Flato a share of the winnings, but he didn’t take it.
The fallout of Jackpot gate for Navarro has been an avalanche of insufferable comments on her personal Facebook page, while Flato has also sent her an assortment of messages and emails that both insult and threaten her.
He has also attempted to get lawyers to take on his case, without success. This has led him to conclude that any portion of the $100,000 is “long gone”.
The universal rule
The universal rule within the slots sphere is incredibly simple. The pusher of the spin button or the puller of the lever is the winner of any cash.
It is the act of pushing the button that represents the placing of any wager, regardless of any backstory behind it or pre-planned agreements.
The only thing that the casino has to concern itself with is that any prize is paid to the player who spun the reels. The contract is between the person who makes the wager and the casino.
So if you have put your money into a slot machine and are joined by someone else, make sure you completely trust them if you intend to let them spin on your behalf.
Because if they spin a big win while taking over momentarily as you pay a visit to the toilet or even if they spin only once for ‘luck’, technically the prize belongs to them.
If you want to involve someone else, maybe the most sensible plan is to both push the spin button together.