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Published: 7/15/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

HOLLYWOOD CASINO TOLEDO

Gambler tops own record jackpot

Oregon man hits for $250,000 on slot machine

BY LORENZO LIGATO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Only a week after the opening of Hollywood Casino Toledo last year, Martin Halka, seen here with his wife Darcy Halka, Michael, 13, right, and Aiden, 5, gambled his way up to a $100,000 jackpot, becoming the first big winner at the casino. Only a week after the opening of Hollywood Casino Toledo last year, Martin Halka, seen here with his wife Darcy Halka, Michael, 13, right, and Aiden, 5, gambled his way up to a $100,000 jackpot, becoming the first big winner at the casino.
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Martin Halka thanked his lucky stars, twice.

Only a week after the opening of Hollywood Casino Toledo last year, Mr. Halka gambled his way up to a $100,000 jackpot, becoming the first big winner at the brand-new casino.

The 42-year-old Oregon man would have never thought he would be hearing again the victorious symphony of beeps, dings, and ka-chings blare out from the casino slot machines — but last Tuesday Lady Luck smiled once more upon Mr. Halka, the owner of Bay Area Concrete, a concrete company in Oregon.

In a streak of lucky plunks and pulls, three triple diamonds aligned along the pay line on the slot machine’s display in front of Mr. Halka. It took a few seconds before it dawned on him that he had just won a $250,000 jackpot on the Triple Diamond game.

“It was kind of hard to believe at first,” Mr. Halka said. “I pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream.”

Mr. Halka, who had held the record for the largest jackpot in the history of Hollywood Casino Toledo, broke his own record with Tuesday’s jackpot win, causing disbelief among many, including his wife, Darcy.

“He called me on the phone and I thought he was messing around with me,” she said. “I didn’t take him seriously: I was shocked.”

Richard St. Jean, Hollywood Casino Toledo’s general manager, echoed her stupefaction.

“This guy is extraordinarily lucky: It’s not a frequent occurrence for the same person to hit a significant jackpot twice,” he said.

A seasoned gambling enthusiast, Mr. Halka has frequented the casino south of downtown Toledo at least once a month since the venue officially opened on May 29, 2012.

The casino regular, however, said he has little advice on how to hit a six-figure jackpot on a slot-machine game.

“You just have to change slot machines until you find the one that is going to pay you,” he joked, adding that his two jackpot wins were the result of “some stroke of luck or some higher power” more than anything.

For Mr. Halka, however, there was a time when luck seemed to have turned its back on him, both at cards and in personal life.

Born in Curtice, Ohio, in 1970, Mr. Halka was only 6 weeks old when his mother, Rachel, passed away. He grew up in Oregon, eventually quitting high school his junior year to join his father's concrete business. The death of his father, Martin J. Halka, in 1992 came as a hard blow for Mr. Halka, then only 22 years old.

“It’s crazy: I’ve never considered myself lucky until now,” said the two-time jackpot winner. “It’s just unbelievable.”

For now, Mr. Halka and his wife said they have quite a few ideas for how to invest the jackpot money. They plan to renovate their Oregon house, expand the concrete company by opening a new location in Curtice, and, of course, treat their four children to some small luxuries.

“Dad already bought me a four-wheeler, so I’m really happy about that,” said their 13-year-old son, Michael. “I didn’t think it was possible for him to win again, so I was just amazed when it happened.”

Since its opening, the casino has paid out more than $46 million in jackpots.

Contact Lorenzo Ligato at: lligato@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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