Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nice one

A struggling actor has been paid nearly $260,000 by a casino after he was initially denied the money when managers said his apparent win was a mistake.

Freddy Howard, 53, of Sunny Isles Beach, took part in a free promotional game, the Swipe and Win Progressive jackpot, while at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood on Aug. 29. Howard swiped his Players Club card, and a hostess and supervisor broke the news: He had won $259,945.75.

Howard was showered with attention and presented with a giant cardboard cheque. Then casino managers broke the bad news — a computer glitch had caused an error and he was not a big winner.

On Tuesday, the Hard Rock paid him anyway.

“We are making this payment as a gesture of goodwill, and I am pleased to tell you that Mr. Howard has accepted,” said Allen Huff, chairman of the Seminole Gaming Commission.

However, Huff said Howard used a Players Club card that belonged to his father and was not eligible to win, even if there had not been a mistake. Howard had hired a lawyer and also threatened to picket the casino.

“Honestly, I just want to be gathered together with relatives and with friends and thank God once again for this whole thing,” Howard said. He said he agreed not to discuss the details of his deal with the casino.

Officials said an independent testing facility, Gaming Laboratories International, determined a communications glitch between computers had created the problem that indicated Howard had won.

Then casino staff added to the problem.

“We became overexcited at the operations level,” said Seminole gaming chief executive officer James Allen. “Our marketing team’s job is to create excitement, and, candidly, they went a little too far.”

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