As Horseshoe Casino Cleveland marks 1st anniversary, car winner uses fortune to change future

CLEVELAND - Chris Trotta of Valley View is very familiar with the saying about one door closing and another opening, he has lived it.

Trotta's been going to casinos out of state for years and was very happy when the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opened in May of last year.

In the fall, though, he took notice of the casino's "Exotic Car Giveaway" where players earned a chance to win a 2012 Aston Martin Virage Coupe with its $200,000 MSRP, every time they earned 25 tier credits playing with their Total Rewards card.

The promotion ran from September to early November, but the actual drawing was at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, and the person whose name was drawn had to be present to win.

Because of Superstorm Sandy, most northeast Ohio communities moved trick or treating to that night and Trotta admitted by the time 8 p.m. rolled around he was on the fence.

"I was almost a little comfortable saying well just maybe I'll stay here and not drive downtown," he said.

That was one voice, the other?

"I have this feeling that I need to get down there because I may have a chance to win this thing," he said.

He wisely followed the latter urge, arriving at the casino with 20 minutes to spare and making his way to the front where the winner was to be announced.

"I knew if I won I didn't want to have to fight through the crowds to get up there," he recalled.

Again, wise choice for it was his name drawn and called.

"It was pretty surreal and I asked them twice to say whether that was my name," he said.

"Inside, I was jumping up and down because I was so excited but it was sort of overwhelming when it happens because you just can't quite believe it," he said.

He had the option of taking the car or a $100,000 cash option. He took the car.

For a week, Trotta enjoyed the high life of giving friends and neighbors the opportunity for the once in a lifetime drive in the coupe, even bravely giving his 17-year-old daughter a chance to test drive it.

But as he put it, "we live in the real world" and for him the reality was he was out of work. Employed for the last 15 years as an architect designing hospitals and other buildings for such clients as University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic, he was in the process of interviewing for other jobs out of town.

"I thought through it a lot and I just said, 'You know what, this is an opportunity for me to start my own business,'" he said.

So levelHEADS architects & integrators was born.

"With the backing of these funds, it gave me the confidence to open my own shingle which I've always wanted to do," Trotta said. "It's been a success for four months, not much of a track record but I'm certainly enjoying my time and freedom."

"It really was a perfect coincidence, perfect timing," he said.

Watch John Kosich's story Tuesday on Live On 5.

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