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Man Arrested For Exploiting Error In Slot Machines 611

Posted by timothy
from the where's-nicky-santoro-when-you-need-him? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A man awaiting trial in Pennsylvania was arrested by Federal agents on Jan. 4, and accused of exploiting a software 'glitch' within slot machines in order to win payouts. The exploit may have allowed the man to obtain more than a million dollars from casinos in Pennsylvania and Nevada, and officials say they are investigating to see if he used the method elsewhere. The accused stated that 'I'm being arrested federally for winning on a slot machine. Let everybody see the surveillance tapes. I pressed buttons on the machine on the casino. That's all I did.' Apparently, slot machine software errors are fairly common. The lesson here seems to be that casinos can deny you a slot machine win any time they wish by claiming software errors, and if you find an error that you can exploit, you may find yourself facing Federal charges for doing so."
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Man Arrested For Exploiting Error In Slot Machines

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  • Idiotic Summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by donutello (88309) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:05PM (#34784308) Homepage

    The lesson here seems to be that casinos can deny you a slot machine win any time they wish by claiming software errors

    This idiotic assertion does not seem to be supported by the facts of the case.

  • Re:What's next? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:07PM (#34784340) Homepage Journal

    The only way to win is to not play.

  • Re:What's next? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:11PM (#34784398) Journal

    Well it's a LITTLE more complicated than that... FTFA:

    In order to expose the glitch, a special "double-up" feature had to be internally activated. The men persuaded casino technicians to alter "soft" options on the machines, such as volume and screen brightness controls. Such perks aren't unusual for high-rollers, who can wager anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars in one day.

    One Meadows employee, who was not criminally charged or accused of wrongdoing, agreed to enable the double-up feature on the machine with the glitch.

    Normally, such a feature would allow a player to risk doubling his winnings or potentially losing them all. The double-up feature isn't usually enabled on the machines in part because it's unpopular with most gamblers, who are unwilling to risk large amounts of money.

    When the correct sequence of buttons was pushed, the machine displayed false double jackpots. No casino officials noticed because the bogus jackpots weren't being recorded in the machine's internal system.

    Throughout April 2009, Mr. Kane frequented Las Vegas casinos, practicing his technique in a "test run," according to authorities, before calling his friend Mr. Nestor in Pennsylvania.

    From May 1 to June 15 in 2009, agents said Mr. Nestor joined Mr. Kane in Las Vegas, where the duo allegedly cashed in phony jackpots "over and over again" and perfected a scheme to exploit the same glitch in casinos across the world.

    So they noticed a glitch in the system - one that allowed them to get a Jackpot without it being reported or investigated. They then went worldwide with this to get as much money as they could before getting caught.

    Now, don't get me wrong, a bug in the system shouldn't be the fault of the player, and definately shouldn't result in Criminal Charges, I'd even say taking back the winnings is a bit harsh though it depends on the scenario (obviously guys exploiting a flaw should give back all the money, a person experiencing the glitch once shouldn't have to give any of it back).

    But claiming that they are completely innocent in this scheme sets a bad precedent. Oh, this website didn't secure their Logins for SQL injection, it's not MY fault the series of buttons I pressed resulted in me accessing their database records. Oh, metasploit showed me a new Microsoft zero day exploit, its not MY fault I got admin access to the webserver by simply pressing the correct keys!

    TL;DR - Just because the Casino claims that the player won by a glitch doesn't mean the Casino is evil and the player is being ripped off. Yeah, it's not their fault there is a glitch, but if the player repeatedly exploits it instead of reporting it, you have to expect some sort of consequences.

  • Totally fair (Score:2, Informative)

    by eedlee (1448129) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:13PM (#34784432) Homepage
    Casinos can change the odds at will, banks can defraud depositors, and brokerages can make millions per microsecond trading phantom ticks. But don't you dare win at slots bitch!
  • Re:double standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by pwizard2 (920421) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:15PM (#34784466)
    Are we really surprised? There are very few games in a casino where the house doesn't have a significant advantage. The house wants you to lose money because their business model depends on it. They only pay out winnings to keep people coming back. The whole gambling industry (including lotteries) is nothing more than a system of wealth redistribution. The rich love casinos (if they own the place) because it makes money for them and the government loves casinos because it means more tax revenue. Everyone else loses.
  • by PatPending (953482) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:21PM (#34784534)

    I'm looking at a slot machine right now and I see this notice: "MALFUNCTION VOIDS ALL PLAYS AND PAYS". Period. It doesn't matter whether that malfunction happens internally or externally.

    Gaming is heavily regulated by a state gaming control board and the slots machines themselves have incredibly robust state machines (including power-hit tolerance), tamper resistance, history logs (games played; events; system errors; etc.), and must be certified by a state gaming control board (and possibly a third party lab such as GLI).

    Disputes naturally arise and there is a state gaming board approved method for dealing with them. If the player is still unsatisfied he is free to seek a civil action in a court of law.

  • Not just a s/w error (Score:5, Informative)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:23PM (#34784550)

    According to TFA:

    The men persuaded casino technicians to alter "soft" options on the machines, such as volume and screen brightness controls.

    It appears that their scheme went far beyond exploiting a s/w error in a 'deniable' fashion (Anyone could have pushed that combination of buttons by chance) when they had technicians reconfigure the machines.

    IANAL, but one problem in obtaining any sort of criminal conviction is that of proving intent. Had the button combination been pushed with nothing else going on, there could have been some question. But once they solicited help from the casino techs, the jig was up.

  • by LetterRip (30937) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:43PM (#34784796)

    People get their winnings denied for counting cards. I don't really understand how that's allowed - not only is it impossible to prove, it also seems like it means that the rules prohibit playing to the best of your ability.

    AFAIK you cannot be denied your winnings for counting cards. They can however refuse to let you play if they believe you are a successful card counter. (They actually like card counting since most people make errors frequently enough that the edge from the counting is lost).

  • by gurnec (1011007) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:45PM (#34784822)
    This is a common misconception which the likes of Vegas and Atlantic City would love everyone to continue to believe. There are no jurisdictions in the United States in which card counting (without the use of any devices) is illegal. Additionally, a casino has no right to take back any winnings which were legally obtained. In Nevada, casinos *are* permitted to deny you entrance or ask you to leave if they suspect you may be a card counter. AFAIK, they are also free to share ban lists with other casinos as they see fit. In New Jersey, casinos are not even allowed to go this far. Players may not be denied entrance simply because they are too skilled (see Uston v. Resorts International Hotel, Inc.).
  • Re:double standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kitkoan (1719118) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:45PM (#34784826)
    Because the Gaming Commission isn't really interested hear this information. Its like the Diebold voting machines during elections. They were known to be faulty, documented to be faulty and had been warned many times that they are faulty and should never be used because of all the issues and problems that had. And they were used multiple times in multiple voting situations. At the end of the day they are more concerned in who is paying their fee's and not how it effects the public.
  • Re:Idiotic Summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Samalie (1016193) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:19PM (#34785230)

    I surmise that the slot machines, or at least progressive (and networked) slot machines, are deterministic to a point. The House knows about when the jackpot will be paid out and where. They're not totally random, and they do want to not pay off several huge jackpots in a short span of time.

    Nope, not the case, because that WOULD be illegal. Every single roll of the random number generator must legally be "random" (or as pseudo-random as random number generators are capable of getting), which basically means every spin has to have the exact same 1 in whatever chance of hitting the jackpot.

    The "joy" of these progressive machines though is simply...the house always wins, even if they had a sudden rash of wins in a short period of time, because the jackpot re-seeds at some arbitrairly low-ish number, not at the same amount as was just paid out. The permutations and house edge % programmed into the payout tables for the RNG take care of generating re-seed money.

    Basically, the algorithms are all in place, and all this is stitistically accounted for. The principle of gambling is that in the short term, every game/slot machine/etc has a chance of you hitting a jackpot, and/or winning some money, over losing. In a small number of trials, any statistically improbable event can happen. In the long term (millions and millians of trials) the house takes anywhere from 1 to 20% per trial.

  • by Pollardito (781263) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:20PM (#34785240)
    He should have quoted more of the story [post-gazette.com], because it wasn't brightness or volume that was the issue:

    The pair, according to police, had knowledge of a software glitch in one of the high-bet slot machines. In order to expose the glitch, a special "double-up" feature had to be internally activated. The men persuaded casino technicians to alter "soft" options on the machines, such as volume and screen brightness controls. Such perks aren't unusual for high-rollers, who can wager anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars in one day.

    One Meadows employee, who was not criminally charged or accused of wrongdoing, agreed to enable the double-up feature on the machine with the glitch.

    Normally, such a feature would allow a player to risk doubling his winnings or potentially losing them all. The double-up feature isn't usually enabled on the machines in part because it's unpopular with most gamblers, who are unwilling to risk large amounts of money.

    Read the story and you'll see that there's a lot more to it then just his preferences. For instance he was using a third-party to cash in winnings that he knew would raise eyebrows.

  • Re:double standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:41PM (#34785514) Journal

    In fact George is immune to everything you mentioned and virtually everything else now, save decomposition... the boy has passed from this mortal coil. By the way, if you actually do research about the man, you'll find that even though he was a thoroughly human, human being, and subject to his fair share of faults, George was one of the most intelligent, hard working, eclectic, and ethically scrupulous people walking the planet, and had no trouble publicly pointing out where he'd been at fault or error. I love what he said about "Political Jokes".

    To paraphase; "I don't do Political Jokes. It's not like Politicians fall out of a rift in the universe from a parallel dimension. Where do you get greedy, corrupt, stupid Politicians? You get them from a greedy, corrupt, stupid Society which rewards greed, corruption, and stupidity. What's to joke about?"

  • Re:double standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moryath (553296) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:08PM (#34785882)

    Not far off the mark, really.

    There was a case of someone winning a jackpot a while back and the casino claiming the jackpot was a "software error" after the fact. Denver Post Article [denverpost.com]. As the article shows, such "errors" are relatively common.

    And of course, the casinos always reserve the right to claim someone is "cheating" or simply "winning too much", or "card counting", and pull all sorts of nasty tricks.

    Also remember: in a gambling town, the cops and judges aren't paid by the local government. They're paid by the casinos. Period.

  • by tal775 (1972042) on Friday January 07, 2011 @01:18AM (#34787748)
    This is the same exploiting a "software error" concept as the mid-80s game show "Press Your Luck" where a contest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Larson [wikipedia.org] won far bigger than anyone before him by taking advantage of a poorly planned game, in a legal way.

    In that game, CBS reluctantly paid the winnings, and fixed the error so that no one else did it. The casino should do the same since he wasn't shaking the machine, putting coat hangers up the coin return or other such hacks that clearly aren't ok. Asking to turn up the volume or brightness, was ok with the casino employee, even if it unknowingly activates the bug.

    I don't see how this could hold up in court. If they can't get the devs to fix it, then take the problem machines off the floor, or implement security in the same way as done to watch card counters. If someone wins more than x times at a machine, or racks up more than $x winnings, pay it out and ask them to leave. Card counters aren't charged with "receiving stolen property", and that's also exploiting an inherent flaw in those games. The casinos bought and paid for the software on their machines, and should be accountable for any flaws in their purchase.

    I've been to the casino in question, and have to wonder on any future trips, if I win legitimately even without exploiting anything, will I have unknowingly hit the "Stop" button at a time that could be considered a hack, and be in the same boat as this guy?
  • Re:double standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by SecurityGuy (217807) on Friday January 07, 2011 @02:02AM (#34787962)

    There was a case of someone winning a jackpot a while back and the casino claiming the jackpot was a "software error" after the fact.

    Like everyone else, I read about such things with outrage until I actually RTFA. The jackpot she hit was about 100x higher than the maximum the machine was ever supposed to give, so it WAS an error, and obviously so.

  • Re:double standard (Score:3, Informative)

    by cgenman (325138) on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:24AM (#34788612) Homepage

    To be fair, the gentleman in question was asking technicians to enable an option that allowed him to get the software-glitch jackpot. This wasn't just a case of a Casino not wanting to make a big payout, but active, well-planned attempts to exploit a software flaw.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Friday January 07, 2011 @05:52AM (#34788906) Homepage

    Slot machines are not a legitimate game of chance though. If you examine the disassembled code you can see that supposedly random outcomes are actually decided by the code to keep the player feeling like they might win.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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