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Slot Machine with Bad Software Sends Players To Jail 647

Posted by Zonk
from the can't-you-see-the-code dept.
dcollins writes "Previous discussions here have turned into debates over who is liable for faulty software: the programmers, the publisher, etc. Yahoo has a new option: perhaps the users are criminally liable for using the software. From the AP: 'Prosecutors are considering criminal charges against casino gamblers who won big on a slot machine that had been installed with faulty software ... A decision on whether to bring criminal charges could come in a couple of weeks, said John Colin, chief deputy prosecutor for Harrison County. He said 'criminal intent' may be involved when people play a machine they know is faulty.' Would your average user be able to distinguish 'faulty software' from 'lucky'?"
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Slot Machine with Bad Software Sends Players To Jail

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  • Good grief (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:23PM (#19932013) Homepage Journal
    Can we stop taking balanced articles and turning them into overly sensationalized summaries? This isn't the 1920's anymore. We don't need to expand an ultra-brief telegraph message or make up details while we wait for a postmarked letter. :-/

    Would your average user be able to distinguish 'faulty software' from 'lucky'?

    If you put $1 in the machine and got a $10 credit, I should think that the user would figure out that there's more going on than them just being "lucky".

    Yahoo has a new option: perhaps the users are criminally liable for using the software.

    As TFA says, the Casino contacted the winners about the fault, and several of them agreed to give back their winnings. (Total losses for the casino were nearly $500,000.) Criminal charges are being considered for the remainder of the two dozen people who exploited the machine. Those charges would result in the gambler getting hauled before a judge and made to prove that he thought that he was just "lucky" when the machine gave him a $10 credit for every $1 he put in.
    • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skreems (598317) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:26PM (#19932071) Homepage
      As someone who's never used a slot machine, is it completely unheard of for a machine to convert money into "game points" or tokens or credits or something? If I played a slot machine and it said 10 every time I put a dollar in, I'd assume it was 10 plays for a dollar.
      • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lord_Ultimate (1049752) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:37PM (#19932245)
        Having played slot machines semi-frequently myself, I can honestly say that to the best of my knowledge, every machine I have ever played translated the money into credits. Someone who cashed out of the machine, realized something fishy was going on, added more money, cashed out again, rinsed and repeated *might* be someone worth investigating. FTA, The woman who reported the machine to the casino has it right - the casino doesn't give you your money back if a machine jams, so it shouldn't work the other way. If a convenience store gives you too much change, you're under no obligation to correct the mistake. Gambling parlors are basically a license to print money anyway, so I can't imagine $500k will take long to recover.
        • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:51PM (#19932469) Homepage Journal
          "The woman who reported the machine to the casino has it right - the casino doesn't give you your money back if a machine jams, so it shouldn't work the other way."

          I agree. This was the one point that really stood out in the article to me.

          As long as you are not breaking any rules of the game, not cheating, they should not be able to prosecute you. If a person was operating the machine per instructions, insert coin/token, pull handle/push button, no matter what they did, they cannot be held accountable for any crime. If you operate the machine as described, you have a chance of it giving you more money. You intend to try to increase your money on these machines, and if operating it by the rules, there is no crime.

          This should be treated much like counting cards at blackjack. If you do it in your head with no mechanical help, you are playing within the rules, and you are not cheating. The casino (except in Atlantic city I think) can tell you they'd not like to take your action anymore, and can even throw you out and not let you gamble there any longer, but, you cannot be charged with a crime. If you play by the rules they give you, you cannot be held criminal.

          • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Hatta (162192) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:10PM (#19932753) Journal
            If you play by the rules they give you, you cannot be held criminal.

            The whole point of the article is that, apparently, you can.
          • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Informative)

            by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:22PM (#19934079)
            This should be treated much like counting cards at blackjack. If you do it in your head with no mechanical help, you are playing within the rules, and you are not cheating.

            The issue of whether or not card counting constitutes cheating was and is a hot topic in the gaming industry with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. The courts have consistently ruled that it is not cheating, from the legal definition of cheating (i.e. the one that results in a criminal prosecution), to count cards provided that one is not assisted in this endeavor by any sort of device (i.e. mechanical, electronic, electro-mechanical, etc). The casinos on the other hand, not surprisingly, consider all forms of card counting, even the type that courts have ruled legal as "intelligent play" (i.e. using your brain), as "cheating". This is where it gets interesting. In Las Vegas the casinos have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason and it is not unheard of for card counters to get the back-room treatment (i.e. casino security goons try to verbally intimidate you into not coming back again and in the old days that did more than just talk if you know what I mean). However in Atlantic City they are not allowed to refuse someone a game, provided that the casino is open to the public and the player is not creating an overt disturbance, so they do things like switch decks frequently, deal from multiple decks, deal only partway through the decks, use automatic shufflers, etc...to discourage card counting.

            The gaming industry is not a nice industry to be in, either as a player or an owner, being classically considered as a vice industry which means that you are going to attract many of the "wrong sort of people" if you know what I mean. The casinos deal harshly with anyone they perceive to be hurting the bottom line precisely because the entire atmosphere of gambling is already highly adversarial and involves the one thing that everyone wants more of...money...and lots of it. Personally, I don't much care for gambling, even as a form of entertainment, but if you plan to try card counting then all I can say is watch out...either you wont be any good at it and the casinos will encourage you to "count" more often or you will be in which case you will end up in their database and be bared from just about every casino on the face of the earth.
            • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Interesting)

              by ms139us (723585) on Friday July 20, 2007 @11:12PM (#19935545)
              The issue of whether or not card counting constitutes cheating was and is a hot topic in the gaming industry with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. The courts have consistently ruled that it is not cheating, from the legal definition of cheating (i.e. the one that results in a criminal prosecution), to count cards provided that one is not assisted in this endeavor by any sort of device (i.e. mechanical, electronic, electro-mechanical, etc). The casinos on the other hand, not surprisingly, consider all forms of card counting, even the type that courts have ruled legal as "intelligent play" (i.e. using your brain), as "cheating".

              Having some exposure to the gaming industry, ex-wife is professional poker dealer (just dealt the final table WSOP), and being a card counter myself, I have noticed that casinos, at least in small gambling communities, prefer card counters.

              First of all, the courts have stated that casinos can only offer games of chance. If a casino wants to outlaw counting cards on the basis that card-counting pays the player, then, by definition, blackjack is not a game of chance and therefore cannot be offered by a casino.

              Back to the point. Most blackjack players, quite frankly, suck, but think they are wizards. Every now and again, a good player walks into a casino, counts cards, tips well and keeps winning. What happens next? All of the gamblers walking by the table notice how "hot" the table is, sit down, and promptly empty their wallet.

              One good, polite, well-tipping card counter will advertise the table, pay the dealers well and fill the house's coffers, while not costing the house much to pay the card counter.

              More than one pit boss has approached me and asked how I was counting, and then asked if there was anything they could do for me -- food, drinks, etc.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by asuffield (111848)

              The casinos on the other hand, not surprisingly, consider all forms of card counting, even the type that courts have ruled legal as "intelligent play" (i.e. using your brain), as "cheating". This is where it gets interesting. In Las Vegas the casinos have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason and it is not unheard of for card counters to get the back-room treatment (i.e. casino security goons try to verbally intimidate you into not coming back again and in the old days that did more than just

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by R3d M3rcury (871886)

          The woman who reported the machine to the casino has it right - the casino doesn't give you your money back if a machine jams, so it shouldn't work the other way.

          While I agree in the business process, there is another analogy to be considered: Stolen Property.

          IANAL, but as I understand it (and I may be wrong, so be gentle if I am), the rules of stolen property basically state that if a "reasonable person" would conclude that the property is stolen, you knowingly received stolen property whether you claim you knew it was stolen or not. So if a guy offers to sell me a new BMW car for $500, a "reasonable person" would conclude that the car is stolen.

          I think banks us

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by sleigher (961421)
            Wait a second..... I play Monopoly all the time and I get bank errors in my favor and I get to keep the money. So explain THAT!
        • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Original Replica (908688) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:44PM (#19933735) Journal
          The other possible take on it, that I can see, goes like this: If they put in $5 and got 50 attempts instead of 5, but they won $1000 on attempt #50, they owe the casio $45 (for the unpaid for attempts) not the full $1000 that they won. If gambling is entertainment, then they owe the price of that entertainment, which at that machine is $1 per attempt. Wheither or not they "won" during one of those attempts is completely beside the point.
        • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Informative)

          by feld (980784) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:02PM (#19933909)
          The woman who reported the machine to the casino has it right - the casino doesn't give you your money back if a machine jams, so it shouldn't work the other way.

          I work in a casino repairing slot machines at the moment, and yes, if a machine jams, the patron DOES get their money back. The casino by law cannot pick up change off the floor nor can they keep any money that was put into a machine but the machine didnt register. The patron will always get their money back after an investigation is completed and it is determined that the money really does belong to the patron.
          • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:18PM (#19935061) Homepage Journal

            The casino by law cannot pick up change off the floor
            I worked at a casino for 3.5 days once, thanks to this law. After day 3 came orientation, on the way to which I picked a quarter up off the floor. The next day in the middle of my shift I get a call to report to security, where I get fired and escorted from the premises. Thank god I was underage, if I had been 21 and had a gaming permit it would have been revoked for life.
        • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jagspecx (974505) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:31PM (#19934165)

          I can honestly say that to the best of my knowledge, every machine I have ever played translated the money into credits


          In fact, I believe they do this on purpose as a psychological trick - you're losing points, you're not losing real money...
    • Mixed feelings (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KingSkippus (799657) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:28PM (#19932093) Homepage Journal

      I have mixed feelings about this.

      On the one hand, the casino should bear at least some of the responsibility for allowing a faulty machine to give away its money. I think it's entirely reasonable to expect them to inspect equipment for such glaring problems before installing it and letting the public have at it.

      On the other hand, if a slot machine has the fact that it costs one dollar to play prominently displayed, and you get ten dollars' worth of credit when you insert your dollar, it's painfully obvious to any reasonable person that the machine is messed up. The people playing most certainly should have reported the error, or at the very least, not exploited it.

      At the very least, I think the casino would--and should--have a very strong civil case against the people who exploited the bug and who didn't return the money. If the opposite happened, that people only got one dollar's worth of credit when they inserted a ten-dollar bill, you'd better believe there would have been hell to pay, and maybe even a lawsuit over it. Just because the error is in favor of the customer instead of the company doesn't shift the morality of the issue. As a matter of public relations, though, it might be in the casino's best interest not to push the issue, or to push the issue with the people who programmed the slots incorrectly instead of their paying customers.

      As for criminal charges, although I think that exploiting the machines is a pretty scummy thing to do, I have a hard time thinking it should be escalated to the level of a crime. Like I said, the casino should bear some responsibility for the mistake. Even if exploiting the machine should be considered some sort of theft or cheating, what happened could be considered enticement to commit a crime that one wouldn't otherwise normally commit. That's entrapment, and that is illegal itself.

      • by madcow_bg (969477)
        Some responsibility you say?
        Well, if they have the power to change the software, and I don't, why is it my fault that it is not working properly? Who says it is not working as intended, if I may ask?
        They should bear the whole responsibility, and just swallow the losses, like they always do. Otherwise they just won't do anything about it.
        • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:5, Interesting)

          by KingSkippus (799657) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:49PM (#19932437) Homepage Journal

          Who said anything about the power to change the software? If you know the software is working incorrectly (which you do, if you get $10 credit for inserting $1), and you use that fact to exploit the machine for your financial gain at the expense of the casino, then you do bear responsibility for their loss.

          Think of it this way. If you walk up to an ATM and withdraw $100, and it says on your receipt that your account has been reduced by $100, but the machine actually spit out $1,000, what do you do?

          A. Report to the bank that their machine is screwed up and give them back the $900.
          B. Keep the whole $1,000 and go your merry way.
          C. Insert your card again and take $1,000 at a time until either your account or the ATM is empty.

          Option A is clearly the right answer. If you pick option B, the bank will probably drop the issue if you give back the $900. If you choose option C, which is effectively what the people did in the casino, then it's pretty likely you'll find your ass in jail for theft, which is exactly where it should be.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Mr. Freeman (933986)
            That would be a great analogy if we were talking about ATMs instead of slot machines. But we aren't.

            The slot machine says "Put some money in the slot, pull the lever, and you might win a whole lot more than you put in." Thus, a slot machine giving away money is doing exactly what it's designed to do.

            An ATM says "Put in your card and PIN, and you can take out as much money as you have previously put in, no more". Thus, an ATM giving away money is obviously an error.
          • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:5, Interesting)

            by wrook (134116) on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:14PM (#19935347) Homepage
            Interestingly enough, this kind of thing happened to me with an ATM. At the time, making a deposit made the money instantly available. But the bank used to hold my checks for 3 days. So if I deposited a check, they would remove that amount of money from my account and then add it again 3 days later.

            At the beginning of the school term I was usually dead broke. I would get my paycheck, put it into the ATM and then immediately withdraw the money ('cause I needed it for rent or tuition or something frivolous like that). When they put a hold on my check, the balance would never go below 0. And when they put the money back in, they would always deposit the whole amount.

            So if I had $5.27 in my account (not unusual at the time ;-) ), deposited a $1000 check and withdrew it again, I would be left with a balance of $5.27. When they put a hold on the check, they would try to take the money out, but it would only go to $0.27 (strange bug). Then they would put the check back in and I'd have $1000.27.

            This actually happened to me frequently (I was always short of cash and since I was busy I always used the ATM to deposit my checks). Every time it happened I would go with my receipts and attempt to return the money. Every time they would say, "No, you are mistaken. Everything is fine".

            This went on for 3 years. And finally they seemed to fix their bug. I have no idea how much money I ended up with, but it's not an exaggeration to say that the bank pretty much paid for my schooling.

            I have to assume that since I presented the bank with my receipts that they knew about the problem and were just trying to do damage control by convincing me the problem didn't exist. So somewhere out there is a hugely dysfunctional software team, who took 3 years to fix a blatantly obvious bug. Whoever you are, I seriously owe you some beer :-)
          • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:5, Insightful)

            by soft_guy (534437) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @11:33PM (#19935623)
            An ATM is NOT A GAME!!

            ATMs are meant to be easy to use. Clear. Straight forward. Also, you know that when you ask for $40, you get $40 or an error (such as insufficient funds or the machine can't dispense money right now, etc.)

            Slot machines look nothing like ATMs. They have flashing lights. They are intentionally confusing. It is unlikely that the user would even detect the kind of error described in the article in a slot machine. You are using the machine in the hope that you get more out of it than you put in.

            When I refill my Metro card (NYC subway) I have the option to get more credit than I am actually paying for. For example, if you put in $20, it will give you $24 worth of credit. This is a bonus for spending more at once. I would have a hard time not thinking that the casino was doing something analogous.

            I have a hard time having any sympathy for the casino in this situation. The amount of their loss was tiny. People play games at a casino to win money. With this case, if you do somehow, against the odds, manage to win money, the casino can just ask for it back claiming there was an error.

            So, it takes away any incentive to gamble. Which is OK with me, because I don't gamble and I think gambling ought to be illegal, period.

      • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:48PM (#19932425)

        On the other hand, if a slot machine has the fact that it costs one dollar to play prominently displayed, and you get ten dollars' worth of credit when you insert your dollar, it's painfully obvious to any reasonable person that the machine is messed up.
        I disagree, there are lots of scenarios that could legitimately account for the situation, two I thought of in just 30 seconds:
        1. a promotion available on multiple machines with signage about it somewhere else in the casino
        2. an 'easter egg' only mentioned in advertising - like radio commercials - designed to lure people into coming to the casino to try to hit the 'jackpot'

        What makes it so reasonable to believe that the 'error' was really by design is the level of micromanagement that goes on at a typical casino. First the state is involved with highly stringent verification and validation of all electronic games of chance. Then there is the level of observation that goes on - cameras all over the place watching everybody. Then there the actual people on the floor watching everything - keeping track of who wins and who loses, deciding who to comp with free drinks, free rooms, etc.

        Given all that, the chance of a broken machine lasting very long on the floor is so small that it is entirely reasonable to expect that it would be the last thing someone might expect when faced with the described behaviour. This is certainly the first time I've ever heard of such an event, despite there being hundreds of thousands of such machines in use for decades now.
        • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:45PM (#19935203)
          Exactly. Casinos run all sorts of "money for nothing" promotions all the time - free bets, sweepstakes, double payouts, etc. Many of which come and go based on seemingly random days of the week or times of day. In this context, it is perfectly reasonable for gamblers to assume it was some sort of promotion or something.

          This is just passing the buck. Clearly someone at the casino was negligent in not fully testing the machines (not even basically testing them, if my understanding of the defect is correct) before placing them on the floor. That is were the fault lies, not with the users.
    • by jandrese (485)
      Aren't those machines state certified? It seem to me that it is the liability of whoever certified the machine, with some blame on the Casino and the machine manufacturer. Would the Casino be offering refunds if the bug worked in the other direction?
    • by jjh37997 (456473)
      If you put $1 in the machine and got a $10 credit, I should think that the user would figure out that there's more going on than them just being "lucky".

      Maybe not.... I've never played video slots but there are a lot of arcade games were the relationship between money and credits is not 1:1. I could see a lot of people believing that one dollar buys them ten pull of the lever on a video slot machine.

    • Yes and no. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Irvu (248207) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:32PM (#19932177)
      While I agree with your feelings on the oversimplified summary I question whether the Casino's loss of $500,000 matters. As a rule the systems are setup in gambling so that the Casino has an expected payoff. That is, the balance is deliberately tilted towards the operators. When the Casino loses money due to their own negligence (installing broken systems is negligent) then I find it immaterial whether they lost more or less money. I also find the idea that they should be deserving of sympathy immaterial.

      Think about it this way. In a bookstore or grocery the company is negligent if they put the wrong price on something and then let it be sold as such. However obtaining items under such situations do not result in criminal prosecutions. All that a Casino gives is the chance to win more than you pay, albeit a carefully rigged chance that is not in your favor. In this case they screwed up and gave too much of a chance. The fault here should lie with the Casino not the players. It was internal negligence not external. Proving a crime on the players' part seems a little odd of an interpretation to me.
    • Wow. Since this is Slashdot I didn't RTFA and instead skipped to the FP with thoughts of "this is terrible. If the machine kept paying out wins then it's not the users' fault"

      So thank you parent for actually clarifying what the story was about straight away, that the machine was not recognising currency correctly and was giving free money in the manner of a faulty ATM. Submitter, your biased summary altered the nature of my first impression entirely. If that was your intention, well done. Oh BTW, please d
    • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

      by seanadams.com (463190) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:39PM (#19932281) Homepage
      If you put $1 in the machine and got a $10 credit, I should think that the user would figure out that there's more going on than them just being "lucky".

      I wouldn't. When I've walked through vegas casinos some of those games look pretty freagin complicated and I wouldn't think anything of it if I got $10 credits for $1, especially with all the stupid lights and bells going off all around me. I'd probably figure there was a ratio of "game dollars" to real dollars, or something like when you put a quarter in a video game and it says "1/3" credit (because the game costs 75 cents). Why not 1/4 credit for a quarter? I wouldn't think anything of it I'd just stick some money in and play the game for a bit, and consider myself lucky if I came out with more $$ than I started. Big deal.

      Also consider the fact that this was, according to TFA, a foreign machine that did not recognize dollars (anyone actually believe that?). Well if that were really the case that they couldn't even get the currency right, then I'd expect a the on-screen instructions to be poorly translated at best. It might be showing the wrong currency symbol entirely. Who knows.

      One thing's for sure though: if these casinos are dumb enough to start suing their customers or trying to put them in jail, it's not going to entice a whole lot of people to take a trip to vegas... look at how well that plan worked for the music industry.
      • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Informative)

        by NickDngr (561211) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:43PM (#19933711) Journal

        Also consider the fact that this was, according to TFA, a foreign machine that did not recognize dollars (anyone actually believe that?). Well if that were really the case that they couldn't even get the currency right, then I'd expect a the on-screen instructions to be poorly translated at best. It might be showing the wrong currency symbol entirely. Who knows.
        It wasn't a foreign machine. It was a Bally S6000 machine. These machines have a bank of DIP switches on the CPU board that are used to set jurisdictional preferences (including foreign jurisdictions). The slot techs screwed that setting up and didn't coin test the game before putting it in service.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by greoff (650462)

      Those charges would result in the gambler getting hauled before a judge and made to prove that he thought that he was just "lucky" when the machine gave him a $10 credit for every $1 he put in.

      So, you are basically saying that these people are guilty and have to prove they are innocent?

      Seems to me if they have any first year law student, they would not say a word.

      1. The plaintiff would need to prove the defendant knew the 10:1 ratio was not just because of a video game "10 plays for a dollar"
      2. The plaint
  • Lucky (Score:5, Funny)

    by PingPongBoy (303994) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:23PM (#19932015)
    I'd say it's pretty #$@$ lucky to play a slot machine with bad software.
  • by TodMinuit (1026042) <todminuit@nosPAM.gmail.com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:24PM (#19932031)
    Does that mean I'm going to be charged?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stratjakt (596332)
      Blackjack isn't faulty. They just keep adding more decks to make card counting impossible. If they catch you with some sort of electronic cheating device, being charged would be the best case scenario.

      (They really do still work cheaters over in the back room..)
      • You don't need to count cards or use a device to make better than even at blackjack. A simple set of rules is all that is needed. The probabilities of the next card being a given value and its effect on your current hand's value is all that is needed.

        Easy example: The dealer is showing something from 2 to 6. You have 12 or higher. Result? Stand. There's a good chance your next card will cause you to go bust, and there's a huge chance that the dealer will have to hit (only an ace and a 6 would cause otherwis
        • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:35PM (#19933639) Homepage Journal

          A simple set of rules is all that is needed.

          Blackjack is a winnable game, but it is not "a simple set of rules" that will do it.

          The rules you're referring to are called "Basic Strategy," which is a set of rules that will maximize your odds of winning in any given situation. All casinos I've ever been in allow you to actually keep Basic Strategy notes with you for reference. I've even seen them sold on cards in the gift shops of some casinos.

          However, this set of rules will not give you an edge over the casino. All it does is lower the casino's edge over you.

          The rules that will win at blackjack depend on counting cards. You have to keep track in your head of what's been played, at least in general terms of high cards vs. low cards. As low cards are played out of a shoe, the odds of the player winning go up, because high cards tend to bust dealer hands. The key is to bet more money when the shoe has a disproportionate number of high cards in it, and to bet less when the shoe has a normal distribution or when the shoe has a disproportionate number of low cards in it.

          In some places such as Las Vegas, casinos have the legal right to bar players they suspect of counting cards. In others such as Atlantic City, they don't. In those places, casinos compensate by having dealers at tables with card counters shuffle the shoes much more often, sometimes after every single hand. By doing so, any advantage a card counter may have is negated, and the odds will always be in favor of the casino.

          Obviously, pit bosses and security personnel in casinos are trained to spot card counters. The casino has computers itself that can analyze the odds of the player and casino at any point in a shoe, and if they see players vary their bets according to where those odds lie, they know they've got a counter on their hands and can ban them. Casinos have also been known to hire card counters to watch for betting variations of other counters and report them. Also, casinos maintain databases of known card counters so that professionals are instantly spotted and never even get a chance to play in their own favor.

          But the set of rules to be a counter is not simple. In fact, most casinos actually LIKE it when people who think they can count cards come. The thing is, if you screw it up, you will lose a lot of money, because you'll be betting large amounts when the odds are not in your favor. Casinos get far more money from people who screw up card counting than they lose to people who can actually pull it off. For one thing, you're having to keep running counts of at least two numbers (more, if you want better odds) in your head. For another, you're actually having to play the game, and the guy sitting beside you at the table doesn't want to wait 30 seconds for you to decide whether to hit or stand after every card. For another, when you're trying to count cards, you're typically trying to do it in some non-obvious way so that if you're successful, you won't be banned or shuffled up on. It's hard to act all casual like you're not intensely concentrating on something when in reality you are. For yet another, casinos are by their nature very distracting places, with lots of commotion, yelling, dinging slot machines, and so on. As if that weren't enough, while you're at the tables, you'll have waitresses who are generally very attractive coming by repeatedly offering you free drinks, and counting cards while drunk is infinitely harder than counting them while sober.

  • Intent is the key word, IE there has to be proof of intent, if you've been looking at the schematics / rom images for that machine and your skilled at reverse engineering, then you win big, well...

    If your just average joe, then no.
  • Well that's bullshit.
  • State's Fault? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:26PM (#19932067) Homepage
    OK. Isn't this why the State is supposed to certify this kind of stuff? That said, it's hard to tell. On the one hand, if you take advantage of an ATM machine, that's theft. On the other hand, the idea of a slot machine is to try to get money out of it, so if you find a way to do that (even it wasn't the way they intended) then you shouldn't get in trouble. Unless you are sticking your arm in the machine or zapping it with electricity or something else, you won. If you followed the rules (put money in, pulled levers/pushed buttons, won) then it should be yours even if the way you did it (maybe pulled level first, then hit buttons) caused it to malfunction.
    • It may be some setting or dip switch that is off not bad software and there have been times where player lost money to casino errors and mess ups so way is criminal when it is the other way?
  • The users are at fault. For every $1 they inserted, they received $10 in credit. Unless they were blind, there is no way they could not know about this error.
  • Applies to gas too? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skevin (16048) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:29PM (#19932125) Journal
    Here in Manhattan Beach, I found a gas station that gives me premium for $0.41/gallon. Apparently, whoever set the pump price screwed up, as the posted price was $4.09/gallon, but they don't notice because no one else at the gas station used premium. I must have gotten hundreds of dollars of free gas off that one pump so far. Does that mean I can be jailed? Just because I'm taking advantage of someone else's screwup?

    Solomon
    • by doombringerltx (1109389) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:32PM (#19932175)
      That means use cash instead of credit so you don't have to find out the answer
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:34PM (#19932191) Homepage Journal

      Does that mean I can be jailed? Just because I'm taking advantage of someone else's screwup?

      Possibly. Taking advantage of someone else's screwup can be viewed as an intent to defraud. That being said, the station would be more likely to simply ask you to pay the difference. (Assuming it was a big enough deal to make a stink about, which it probably isn't.)

      According to the TFA, that's what the Casino did. They asked people who abused the machine to return the winnings they'd received. Some of them complied. Some of them didn't. Those that didn't are the ones who are being considered for criminal charges. It hasn't been decided yet if the state is going to pursue the case or not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by King_TJ (85913)
        It seems to me like the people who profited from this screw-up would be wise to *let* the casino haul them off to court, unless their "winnings" were so small, it's really no big deal to give them back?

        I'm thinking if this *did* go to court, it would be pretty easy to settle out of court by offering to return the money THEN, vs. volunteering to give it away before it's even known if this is a case they're going to pursue.

        I wouldn't normally advocate a purposeful attempt to keep money that's not rightfully y
    • Yes. You're a thief. A felon too, judging by the amount you just reported.
    • by jkerman (74317)
      Before you call this guy a thief, be sure to check your states accuracy in pricing laws. Particularly as they apply to electronic systems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rleibman (622895)
      The question for me is... how can you live with what you are doing? You are doing something that is obviously (at least obvious to me) immoral, whether it is legal or not is (again, to me) totally irrelevant. For the most part I live my life attempting to do what's right according to my moral values, I might be a bit discouraged to do things that are merely illegal but not immoral, but I strive to not do things that are immoral even if perfectly legal.

      Heck, I DON'T keep the wrong change if I catch the mis
  • by SoCalChris (573049) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:31PM (#19932143) Journal
    FTFA: The machine at Caesars Indiana credited gamblers $10 for each dollar they inserted because the software wasn't designed for U.S. currency, state police said. More than two dozen people played the machine before one gambler alerted Caesars employees.

    If Caesars was so negligent that they put out machines not designed for US currency without testing them or having their vendor test them, then they deserve to lose the money.
  • by pauljuno (998497) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:31PM (#19932149)
    I find it hard to fathom that a casino would install a slot machine without even testing it. You would think the first thing they would do is verify that the machine accepts money and giving it a whirl. I'm sure they have some way of doing this in a test mode to verify it's functioning. I'm not condoning the people who took advantage of the situation, they should return the money. But sheesh, who does the casino have to blame but for themselves?
    • Mind you, I'd never let something like this get out on the floor.

      However, it is VERY difficult to test machines with real currency.
      The levels of security, just at a slot machine company are enough to make you want to scream.
      Everything you do that involves real money has to be checked, rechecked and then checked some more.

      That is, unless you want to put your own money into the machine. I was never one to carry a stack of hundred dollar bills in my pocket just to test company owned machines.

      Once you're on the
  • by niceone (992278) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:33PM (#19932181) Journal
    I'm just surprised that increasing their chances by 10x was enough to give the customers an edge!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Radon360 (951529)

      Go back and RTFA a little closer.

      Step 1: Player inserts $1
      Step 2: Machine indicates the player has ten bets (i.e. $10)
      Step 3: Player cashes out and recieves $10
      Step 4: Go to step 1 and repeat until the player gets paranoid about being caught.

      You see, the process really didn't involve any gambling at all, except being caught.

  • Entrapment? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by amigabill (146897)
    So, you make a defective product and then put it out for public use without telling anyone it's defective, and probably even deny it for quite a while, and then sue everyone who uses this publically accessible product thing? Sounds like the operator is guilty of entrapment.
  • by davmoo (63521) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:35PM (#19932207)
    Would your average user be able to distinguish 'faulty software' from 'lucky'?

    When all the average Joe had to do was insert a dollar to get back $10 or $20, as in *no* game play at all, that's not "luck", that's "a stupid idiot who thinks he can rip off a casino".

    If someone came up to a machine, and stuck a buck in and got back $10 without doing anything *or knowing the situation* and only did it once, I'd say the casino needs to suck it up and eat it.

    But when people are lining up and (some of them) shoving $100 in to get $1000 out, that's not "luck" or "the way it goes", that's called "theft". And those who knowingly did it need to be knowingly prosecuted and knowingly be required to knowingly pay the piper.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Apparently YOU didn't RTFA either.

      If someone came up to a machine, and stuck a buck in and got back $10 without doing anything...
      But when people are lining up and (some of them) shoving $100 in to get $1000 out, that's not "luck" or "the way it goes", that's called "theft".

      The article says nothing of the kind. What it does say is:

      Prosecutors are considering criminal charges against casino gamblers who won big

      "Won big" implies they PLAYED the game, not simply put money in and then cashed out "without doing anything."

      More than two dozen people played the machine before one gambler alerted Caesars employees.

      Again, more than two dozen people PLAYED the machine.

      Nowhere in the article does it even suggest that people just put money in and cashed out 10x what they put in "without doing anything."

  • Well, lets assume that you walk past an ATM that is spitting out thousands of dollars in money. If you grab a bag and fill 'er up, should you really be entitled to the money? Granted, yes the bank is liable for this (for using a product with faulty software), but i doubt there is anybody dumb enough to state, in good conscience, that they think the money should be theirs because they got "lucky".
  • They should have invested in Professor Frink's Gambletron 2000 [couchpotatotrivia.com]. Then none of this would have occurred.

    Professor Frink, Professor Frink! He'll make you laugh, He'll make you think...
  • If the machine had been loaded with real money and dropped real tokens, the casino would have noticed the problem much sooner.

    This is the same problem with people using credit cards instead of using cash.
  • The Slashdot blurb is not very accurate. Makes it sound like the gamblers wouldn't notice the fault. Instead, the machine credited the players $10 each time $1 was inserted, according TFA. So the gamblers can't claim they didn't know the machine was faulty.

    Still, I think it's the responsibility of the casino to ensure the machines are working correctly. This is just like having an ATM spewing $100 bills at random, and expecting people to not take the money.

    I also think the casino is also doing a very bad,
  • Countersuit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PhoenixHack (1032194)
    Prosecutors are considering criminal charges agains casino houses who won big on games involving people who have faulty perceptions of their chances of winning ...
  • ...for being dim-wittedly negligent in their public service, and for endangering the public with their stupidity.

    Seriously though: Why are people like this given power?
  • Whoa, there... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:42PM (#19932323) Journal
    It's the responsibilty of the vendor to verify the systems are in compliance. If the error is in favor of the consumer, then there should be no recourse; if the error is in favor of the house then it's false advertising and the consumer is entitled to compensation. The house has control over all aspects of the game; the player has none. Imho, its similar to a contract: if one party writes the contract, then any errors therein are generally adjudicated in favor of the non-writing party.

    Casinos are the rare exception to simple rules like this: anyone caught playing by the rules and winning too much is prosecuted, hence the prohibition against car counting in blackjack, which is simply smart play. They give you sheets to keep track of roulette spins, and will let you make notes on dice throws all day long.

    To put it in simpler terms: You cut the cake, your brother chooses which piece. If you're the one cutting the cake, don't get pissed if your brother chooses the bigger half.
  • by isaac (2852) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:42PM (#19932325)
    If you put $10 into this slot machine and it gave you $1 in credit, you'd be up shit creek. If you put $100 in and it gave you $0 credit, you'd be lucky to get the casino to comp your breakfast because you're sure as hell not getting $100 back.

    !sympathy here.

  • by Torodung (31985) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:42PM (#19932327) Journal
    The summary says (or hopefully said after it is revised):

    Yahoo has a new option: perhaps the users are criminally liable for using the software.
    "Yahoo News" is the website carrying an Associated Press article about a Caesars casino in Indiana.

    Harrison County, Indiana is the legal entity considering criminal charges against players, probably at the behest of Caesar's.

    I find the summary wording to be at least misleading, if not defamatory.

    Beyond that, from TFA, the machine was crediting ten dollars for every dollar inserted, not paying out with more wins. It was clearly, demonstrably, and obviously faulty. So the answer to the question "Would your average user be able to distinguish 'faulty software' from 'lucky'?" is yes. They knew damned well they were getting $10 worth of chances for every $1. It was as obvious as finding that someone had left their wallet at the machine and pocketing it.

    What the heck is going on here editors? This summary is beyond shoddy.

    --
    Toro

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cfulmer (3166)
      Some of them, maybe. But, consider this scenario:

      You put a coin into the machine, pull the handle, win and then cash out. Now, you have a bin full of $1 coins. How reasonable is it for you to be aware that you have 9 more coins than you should?

      It gets even harder if you do a lot of pulls.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rrohbeck (944847)
      >So the answer to the question "Would your average user be able to distinguish 'faulty software' from 'lucky'?" is yes.

      Hmm, would somebody with that level of intelligence play a slot machine in the first place?
  • by netbuzz (955038) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:43PM (#19932349) Homepage
    It wasn't that long ago that the author of Microsoft Word was banned from a bunch of casinos (temporarily) for what he described as being too lucky at video poker.

    http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/17709 [networkworld.com]
  • by Protonk (599901) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:52PM (#19932487) Homepage
    The Nevada Gaming Commission [nv.gov] [PDF] (As an example, I know the article isn't about Las Vegas) heavily regulates slot machines, their software, and their payout schedule. Machines that deviate from the payout schedule are inspected and machines whose software processes are not open to inspection and audit are not allowed on the floor. In this case it would be, prima facia, a crime to install software that was not audited by the authorities onto a machine. IANAL, so I can't tell you if proving criminal intent would be required, but I suspect that the threshold would be minimal, assuming that it could be proven that the users inserted the bug.

    In this case, it doesn't appear as though the bug was inserted by the users, just (sigh) exploited in order to win. These cases are well litigated in Nevada (though probably not in Indiana/Kentucky), and elsewhere. The trend seems to be [gaminglawmasters.com] (Scroll Down to "Overpayment to Patron") that if it can be proven that the gaming patron didn't involve him or herself in the actual flaw of the machine, then not only are they not liable, but the Casino must still pay out the winnings.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rahvin112 (446269)
      Not only that, but if Indiana law is anything like Nevada gaming law, the installation of this machine on the floor was a criminal act by the Casino and not only would the patrons keep the money the Casino would be paying a large fine for installing the machine in the first place. In fact I doubt in Nevada that the casino would have reported it (and instead just removed the machine) for fear of the fine.
  • by hurfy (735314) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:57PM (#19932573)
    convert electronic voting machines into slot machines!

    I suppose if customers didn't even play and cashed out right away they knew and should give it back. Maybe even have to sue a couple. Actual criminal charges is a bit much as thats almost entrapment. I'd ignore anyone that played more than a round or 2 and cashed out as winnings.

    Unless it clearly states everything in dollars, very unlikely as the machine didn't even recognize dollars intially!, they need to leave some room for doubt. Lots of games convert to credits. Someone could assume a typo in the price schedule, etc.
  • Ahem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:02PM (#19932627) Homepage Journal
    The kept giving me free alcohol, so how can the expect me to observe there was a problem?

    Really it's the Casinos loss. To bad, so sad. Thats the risk when introducing automatic systems that can fail.
  • Is it illegal? Hmmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kinglink (195330) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:02PM (#19932629)
    Well it sounds illegal but it requires looking at two things.

    Did they repeatedly use the system or have knowledge of the problem before they put money into the system the first time?

    If the answer to either of those two are yes then it's possible it's criminal intent and there's a case.

    But allow me to raise another point Two situations arise. A. You go to the grocer's and you give a 5 to the cashier, who in turn gives you back a 20. Do you have to give this money back?

    B. You go to an ATM. The ATM gives you a 50 instead of a 20. Do you have to give this money back?

    Last I checked the answer is no to those, unless there's some sort of agreement between you and the bank/store which says any mistakes are decided in the store's favor and you must alert them of all mistakes. Which means if the players were playing and didn't realize the mistake, they shouldn't be required to give the money back.
  • by xigxag (167441) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:03PM (#19932639)
    From the article, it appears that the casinos have a way of tracking down every user from the casino card, and asking them to return their ill-gotten gains.

    So my question is this: Imagine that the machine was faulty in the other direction, that it was rigged to never come up with a win, no matter how long you played. Would the casinos go to similar lengths to contact their patrons after the fact and send them reimbursement checks? If not, then I say, screw 'em.
  • by fermion (181285) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:04PM (#19932659) Homepage Journal
    Is to win money. So why is winning money a crime? The player has to play fair, but the rules of fairness is set by gambling promoter. For instance, is it fair to sell loterry tickets when the real chance of winning is nill. Of course it is, because lottery tickets is gambling, and chance of anyone individual person winning is nill. The effect is the same. There is no reasonable chance that individual should expect to win. Over the aggregate, when millions of people play, someone typically wins, but that is not the point.

    So, let take this further. Let's say that by some random chance cards are arranged and a particular player wins every hand of blackjack. Should that player be prosecuted? Let's say that a roulette wheel is defective, and players take advantage of the wheel? Should those players be prosecuted? Let's say that the person running a craps table does not know the rules, and is letting people win. Do the player get prosecuted?

    No, because gambling is all about random events. That yoou might get a card, that you might hit a jackpot, that the dice rolls right. The random even that you might get a broken machine. The gambling promoter, OTOH, tries to prevent random events that they can control. The broken machine, the incompetent employee, the card counter walking into their legitimate business. They have the right and responsibility to control those things, but as gambling is about chance, and it about losing and winning on the basis of chance, there is no way that a gambling promoter can complain when the customer does the same thing as the promoter.

    Remember the successful gambling promoter controls the random variables as much as is possible so they the average rate of win is skewed toward the establishment. There is nothing wrong with this. But when the gambling promoter makes a mistakes, that is just like a retailer making a mistake. If a retailer accidently sells a product for an unreasonable low price, or gives a refund that is too high, or packs double merchandise, the customer might have a moral imperative to be nice and tell the merchant of the mistake, but certainly we do not send police to pick up the customer.And so why the person in this story might be morally wrong, I do not that any laws were broken. Especially considered that a slot machine is not like an ATM, where the behavior is predictable and a reasonable person knows or should know when it is broken. It is supposed to random. If someone magically starts winning, why they hell not should they think they are just lucky? I know people who time trips to casino once a month, and they come back with hundreds of dollars. They are playing the odds, which is perfectly legal.

  • by twitter (104583) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:19PM (#19933507) Homepage Journal

    The incident occurred last July, but he said obtaining casino records took longer than expected.

    "Vinnie, I keep telling you we can't say your wife's fur coat was lost in the slot machine. All these otha losses are OK, but the coat claim will have to go into the fire sale next month."

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:31PM (#19933613)
    One argument I've always had over the years in various networked video games I've played (from the original Doom on down the line) is what happens when a bug in the game allows a player to do something he shouldn't, particularly if said bug gives the player an advantage over his opponents. Some will say, "hey! That's cheating!" and others will say, "well, if the game program allowed it then it's legitimate." Both points of view are valid, which is where the conflict comes in.

    I remember one FPS where there was a spot in one level where a player could walk through a wall and hide inside it and shoot anyone on the outside. This wasn't a game that had holographic walls or anything like that: it was an error in the level design. I racked up quite a few kills with that one until my friends caught on. At that point what had been a free-for-all turned into five-against-one.

    It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.
  • Caesars lost money? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by johnny cashed (590023) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:38PM (#19933679) Homepage
    Caesars lost $487,000 on the machine during that time, state police said.

    Did they really "lose" money or did they just not make as much as they normally would have? Did the machine pay out during this time, or is it that players got to play 10x more per dollar, and therefore Caesars "lost" money?
  • FTFA:

    Kathryn Ford of Louisville, Ky., the gambler who alerted the casino, said going after the other patrons was unfair. When a slot machine jams and gamblers lose money, they don't get it back, she said. "It doesn't work in the reverse," Ford said. "They need to forget it and move on."
    This.
  • by ravyne (858869) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:42PM (#19934259)
    Just to post another analogy into the mix: If a store post an incorrect price, and it can be reasonably assumed that its a valid price (ie -- an incorrect decimal place usually doesn't cut it), they have to honor it until a public correction is posted. Usually they'll post the correction near the entrance, the sales bulletin board, and near the item itself. At least that's the way it was were I grew up.

    The bottom line is that if a business entity makes a mistake, they have to eat it. If there's culpability on the part of the slot manufacturer for their faulty software, then its up to the casino to go after them to re-coup their loss.

    Was it dishonest to exploit the machine knowingly? Absolutely. Did everyone know? probably not. How can you separate those who did from those who didn't? You can't. You cannot prove to a reasonable degree of certainty that any of these people *knew* they were exploiting the machine. No proof? No Criminal.

    Any judgment you can make will be solely on the perception of someone as honest or dishonest -- that infamous and often untrustworthy "gut instinct", and even at that I would still maintain that there's no criminal act to be guilty of in the first place.
  • by moxley (895517) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:46PM (#19934277)
    The casino always wins in the end; It is THEIR responsibility to make sure GAMES OF CHANCE are working properly.

    This happened because either somebody didn't do their job, or there was inadequate quality control.

    Personally, I think the casino should eat it, I don't think this is, or should be considered a criminal act - If charges end up being filed and this goes in front of a judge I don't think it's on the players to prove they just thought they were lucky, I think the casino would have to prove they they KNEW they were taking advantage, (and even if they did, I still think it's on the casino).

    AFAIAC the furthest something like this should be able to go is civil court and ONLY if they can prove a player who made money off this didn't return it when asked.

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