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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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  • double standard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:01PM (#34784256) Homepage Journal

    I suppose the most glaring issue here is the double standard that software errors can be legally taken advantage of by the casinos, while they are illegal to take advantage of by the gambler. (or at least that looks like how the recent verdicts have been swinging)

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

      by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:06PM (#34784318) Homepage Journal

      The house always wins. Duh!

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

        by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:16PM (#34785188) Homepage Journal

        "Grasshopper always wrong in argument with chicken."

        --Book of Chao

        • 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 BLKMGK (34057)

            Yeah, in a case like that I can see getting pretty ticked off that there wasn't a payout. If the machine says Jackpot! then coming along and saying "oops" is bullshit unless the machine was tinkered with. If you figure out a way to get the machine to payout that doesn't require twiddling it's guts then bully for you - you win. but this guy? This guy and his friends I'm not so sympathetic with.

          • 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:4, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2011 @10:04AM (#34790260)

              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.

              Perhaps the owners of said casino should not buy into new technology in a mad dash to control the odds and make more money. Life isn't fair.

              The casino is well within it's rights to stop purchasing the faulty equipment-- they are perhaps, though not definitely, within their rights to sue the makers of the machine as it did not perform as advertised and caused severe damages. They are not within their rights to sue or criminally charge consumers.

              Think of this happening in another industry. I buy a snack machine, it is defective and gives out two snacks per purchase. Do I arrest the individual who paid for one snack and accidentally got two? How about I buy a defective cash register that gives back too much change, do I arrest my customers for stealing money, or do I go after the manufacturer who made a faulty product? A gas station incorrectly updates the cost of premium gas at 1.00 off (actually happened at one my old jobs), do we arrest people for "stealing" gas, or do we reprimand the employee for setting the price wrong?

              Life isn't fair, and as a business owner, sometimes you get bad product, bad service, bad employees. For better or worse, unless in extreme circumstances, I don't see how you can take this out on the consumer. In the case at hand, they didn't even do anything explicitly wrong-- they asked for features, features that are offered by the casino to high rollers, to be enabled. They didn't "hack" into the machine, they didn't slip anyone money to enable "illegal modes" they simply asked to turn on modes freely offered by the casino's through their technicians.

              Compounding the problem, of course, is that the gambling industry is notoriously lucrative, and routinely ejects people for no other reason than "winning too much". In the previous example of the gas station, no less than three customers within a few minutes told me of the problem and I was able to correct it. They realized that a mistake had been made, and, though legally in the right, decided to do the "right thing" and let me know a mistake had been made. Casino's treat customers, as demonstrated by this case, like criminals-- despite the fact that they themselves actively try to make the odds worse and worse to make more and more money in an already extremely profitable business. Few people feel ethically inclined to take their side when they find a way to actually "beat the system".

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by cgenman (325138)

            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.

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

              by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo AT world3 DOT net> on Friday January 07, 2011 @08:58AM (#34789736) Homepage

              TFA says that this is apparently not uncommon for people who shovel a lot of money into slots. Changing things like the screen brightness or volume is common. In this case there was a bonus doubling feature that is usually turned off because gamblers don't like it. They don't want double-or-nothing risks, they like to play the shorter odds. It is simply an optional feature that happened to be exploitable. I don't see any difference between that and finding an exploit in one of the default features.

              Bottom line is that the code was buggy and he found a way to turn it to his advantage. There is no suggestion that the technician did anything wrong by enabling this feature or that it is a particularly unusual thing to do.

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

      by joaommp (685612) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:14PM (#34784436) Homepage Journal

      Last year I joined (and left) a major manufacturer of slot machines. I was hired as R&D manager and I was absolutely terrified when I saw how things were done. No good software development practices, their concept of version management was dumping source on a network share, the previous manager was the only one using a VCS and was for his private use, and the code was absolutely disappointing to say the least. The bad practices were so deeply marked on them that things were taken to a new facility, with an entire new team that I personally interviewed and trained them from the start, people that still didn't have any of the bad habits the old team had. Eventually I left because whoever was above me was far worse and I soon realized the company was off to die, because top level management were the ones that messed up in the first place and were about to destroy the company by killing all R&D and training and having the new team do sustained engineering on the bad code produced by the old team. This is the state of the gambling industry.

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

        by NevarMore (248971) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:16PM (#34784480) Homepage Journal

        Why aren't you telling the gaming commission about this?

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

          by CitizenCain (1209428) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:34PM (#34784702)
          And what would he say? It's not like the abysmal state of security on electronic gambling machines is new news, and evidently, no one cares enough to do anything about it. (And why would they when you can just have the feds arrest anyone who profits from flawed code and sieze their assets anyway?) Being stupid isn't a crime, and horrible practices for writing code aren't against gaming commission rules. No, being smart is against the rules and profiting off of crappy code (as a "gambler"/player) is a crime. Three cheers for the land of the free and our awesome justice system. :/
        • 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:double standard (Score:5, Interesting)

          by joaommp (685612) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:50PM (#34784864) Homepage Journal

          I could, but:

          1) what gaming commission? The company is spread around the world, with the first team of programmers being in a country one ocean away from the second, that was set up in my country. And in my country we couldn't even sell or explore the machines, just develop them.

          2) don't forget that before machines can operate in a particular country they have to pass the analysis of that country's gambling commissions or certification companies and they must have access to the entire process, including source code. For some reason, this particular company didn't have a single machine in the USA for several years.

          3) what the hell would I say? "hey, the company that hired me to save it from itself had bad practices before I joined it"?

      • Re:double standard (Score:4, Interesting)

        by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:00PM (#34784984) Journal
        I used to work in the coin-op game industry, which shares many similarities to the gambling industry, but where it's most relevant here is that both industries exist to produce one thing and one thing only: profit. That's all they care about, and very often they don't care how they do it, so long as they can divest people of their cash, and the less they have to spend doing that, so much the better. I for one am not in the least bit shocked to hear your story; I'm just nodding my head, and reminding myself that no matter how much I hate where I'm working now, I can be thankful that 20 years ago I got the hell away from the coin-op game industry and bullshit like you're talking about having put up with.
      • Re:double standard (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday January 07, 2011 @02:59AM (#34788218) Homepage Journal

        ast year I joined (and left) a major manufacturer of slot machines. I was hired as R&D manager and I was absolutely terrified when I saw how things were done. No good software development practices, their concept of version management was dumping source on a network share, the previous manager was the only one using a VCS and was for his private use, and the code was absolutely disappointing to say the least. The bad practices were so deeply marked on them that things were taken to a new facility, with an entire new team that I personally interviewed and trained them from the start, people that still didn't have any of the bad habits the old team had. Eventually I left because whoever was above me was far worse and I soon realized the company was off to die, because top level management were the ones that messed up in the first place and were about to destroy the company by killing all R&D and training and having the new team do sustained engineering on the bad code produced by the old team. This is the state of the gambling industry.

        I was once hired to write a VR casino game. Pretty cool actually, shame it was never commercially released.

        Anyway, the point is that they wanted it guaranteed rigged so even things which appeared to have a certain percentage chance of happening (say 25%) would be indeed 25% until the last piece would cause a win, in which case it wouldn't win except on an exceedingly diminutive chance.

        I found a bug in it that would essentially let you 'spin the slots' as fast as the frame rate of the world, and seriously debated not fixing it in case the game ever was released. Damn morals - I fixed it. =)

    • 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.
      • Re:double standard (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebraining (1313345) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:55PM (#34784902) Homepage

        George Carlin later apologized, but I think it's one of the cases where "truth hurts".

        People who go to Las Vegas, you've got to question their fucking intellect to start with. Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money to a large corporation is kind of fucking moronic. That's what I'm always getting here is these kind of fucking people with very limited intellects.

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

          by DavidTC (10147) <{slas45dxsvadiv. ... } {neverbox.com}> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @11:50PM (#34787206) Homepage

          Going to Vegas is a great vacation. Everything there is rigged to be fun and distracting, you'll never be bored, there are great shows.

          As long as you don't gamble. If you don't gamble, half the stuff you do is be subsided by idiots who are gambling.

          That $50 dollar hotel rooms? Cheaper than roadside motels in the middle of nowhere? They're expecting you to spend $50 bucks a day in the casino.

          That $50 show you want to see? Really costs $80 dollars, but on average people spend $30 dollars waiting for the show to start in the casino.

          Hell, that's why so many conferences are there...the space is cheap, because they expect to make a huge amount of money fleecing the idiotic convention-goers.

          Seriously, Vegas is a great place to go and vacation on the backs of gamblers.

      • Re:double standard (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Solandri (704621) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:11PM (#34785920)

        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.

        It's only a loss if you ignore the entertainment value. My friends who go to Las Vegas do so mostly because it lets them get a weekend's entertainment fairly cheaply (if you're into the sorts of things Vegas offers).

        If you ignoring the entertainment value and looking strictly at what material goods or enhanced capability you've acquired for your money spent, then amusement parks, movie theaters, cable TV, computer games, plays, vacation travel, hiking trips, beach trips, etc. are all "losses". You could claim that the people running all those industries have simply created a system of wealth redistribution.

        Yes, it's extraordinarily bad for a subset of people who have a gambling problem. But the same is true for nearly any activity.

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

      by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:21PM (#34784532) Homepage

      I'd say the most glaring issue is that this article appears right above one about hackers manipulating the stock market. Since we all seem to be gambling, any bets on which "hacker" will see jail time?

    • 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 fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:40PM (#34784754) Journal

        He could argue that he liked that level of brightness and volume, something that is not uncommon among high rollers according to TFA.

        • 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.

          • by kaiser423 (828989) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:01PM (#34785790)
            This does add another layer, but I'm still not too sure.

            I mean, so he got some technicians to enable a feature that is disabled because most gamblers do not like it.

            Then he won enough and had someone else cash it out because he knew that it would raise eyebrows. That just seems like an intelligent move.

            The casino's got to audit the code, so did the gaming commission. Maybe they should have better audits rather than rubber stamps? Because it sounds like some guy did a better audit than them and used it to gain an edge usually reserved for the house.

            Now if he planted the bug, or paid someone to or whatever, then there's crime here. But otherwise, I'm not seeing it.....

            Groups track roulette tables religiously in order to find ones that have an players edge if certain numbers are played, and that is legal. Casino's swap the tables overnight retire popular ones, conceal, etc. In this case, the casino's jsut need to audit the code a bit better.
          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            So he asked for and was given a couple adjustments to the machine, what is the problem?

            Had the casino not liked his request they could have denied it.

          • by jedidiah (1196)

            You're dealing with people that will accuse you of being a cheat or blacklist you for no other reason than being too successful.

            Of course they used a mule.

            The fact that they could dupe the staff into triggering the bug is interesting. Dunno if I buy into the "innocent employee" routine though.

            Although there are effective enough ways at getting at the truth there.

    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      If you actually RTFA, in all fairness, what they are accusing the man of IS cracking with the help of social engineering. This isn't some "tap the side of the box three times and put in two coins" trick, it requires getting an employee to open the machine, set an option that is usually NOT set, then using a precise set of button pushes, it creates a FALSE jackpot, which might have been put there for testing or display only, as the machine doesn't record it as a jackpot at all. The guy didn't even put a co

  • What's next? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ErikPeterson (912282) <dextersNO@SPAMerikgpeterson.com> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:02PM (#34784278)
    Getting sued for picking the winning loto numbers?
    • Re:What's next? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:07PM (#34784340) Homepage Journal

      The only way to win is to not play.

    • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jfengel (409917) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:07PM (#34784346) Homepage Journal

      If you had some inside knowledge of how the lotto numbers were picked, yes.

      They're charging him with fraud. It remains to be shown how he got knowledge of the glitch, and if he merely exploited a pattern he was able to observe, that charge may well not stick. But if he hacked the machines to gain information he wasn't supposed to have, it sounds like fraud to me, whether it was the lotto machine or a slot machine.

      • by fruitbane (454488)

        If he hacked a machine he owned or had access to, what does it matter if the manufacturer intended him to be aware of the glitches or not? As far as I know it's not illegal to have insider knowledge unless the law expressly forbids it, and in this case I'm not sure the law does. The glitch in the slot machine software/firmware was certainly not a way the mfg or casino intended for users to interact with their machines, but so what? I think proving fraud may be difficult for federal authorities unless the me

    • 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.

      • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
        I live in PA, and from what I hear, he had an inside man alter the software so he could hit time after time. The guy isn't innocent. The thing I typically hear people say is,"They shouldn't have taken so much money down at once or they wouldn't have got caught." My line of thinking is you shouldn't be cheating anyone even casinos.
      • by owlstead (636356)

        The difference being that winning jackpots isn't illegal like the other practices you mention. I've also got a bit of an issue with "false jackpots". I've unfortunately never encountered one, and I'll be damned if I am going to use that term *ever*.

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

        by hairyfeet (841228) <[bassbeast1968] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:33PM (#34784680) Journal

        While I agree with part of what you are saying, on the other hand we should be careful not to reward shitty design by making it criminal to exploit it. I mean look at DMCA where ANY encryption, even something as lame and completely bogus as ROT13 could possibly get you busted for "circumventing" it. Or that guy being sued for accessing the hockey game even though they put it on a server with NO authentication methods that would let anyone that knew or found the IP address to help themselves.

        And finally let us not forget this is casinos we are talking about, places where the odds are so badly stacked against the player that if anyone that didn't have the blessing of the state tried to set up a similar gaming operation they would be busted for fraud, and rightly so. The last thing we need is to give them an excuse to not to have to pay out what little they do pay without having to go through a bunch of legal hoops. After all as another poster pointed out that actually worked on slot machine code all the code is shitty so one could argue that ANY significant payout could be attributed to "software glitch" and with piss poor badly managed code that would be a legitimate argument.

        The odds are already so badly stacked on most of them games you'd have better odds at 3 Card Monty, so I'm just worried about setting a precedent that gives them even BETTER than the already overwhelming advantage they already have. Hell I'd already argue most of those games are legalized robbery, do we really need to let them slide for not bothering to have decent code written as well?

  • "oh, geez, I'm sorry, but the back-room monitor says the payout is disallowed, the machine is wrong. please come with us and we'll count the money we need back."

    happens often enough. there is a reason the casinos are palaces and the players live in single-wides.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:07PM (#34784350) Journal
      It can backfire, however. Gambling is heavily regulated and one of the requirements in some places is that the thing being gambled on must be random. These regulations exist to prevent casinos from having fixed decks for card games or rigged wheels for roulette, but they carry over to other forms of gambling. If you can show that their machine is deterministic, then they may be in trouble. A software glitch that lets you always win may well count, depending on your jurisdiction...
  • "and if you find an error that you can exploit, you may find yourself facing Federal charges for doing so"

    If it's an exploit maybe you shouldn't be doing it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pete-classic (75983)

      Aren't casinos exploiting humans? Isn't this worse?

      -Peter

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Surt (22457)

        The casinos are helping evolve our race against addictability. In the long run it will be impossible for a Casino to operate profitably, and that will be a good thing for humanity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      How do you define 'exploit'? People playing slot machines often try to see patterns. If a particular sequence lets them win once, they may try it again. If it lets them win every time they play it, then they'll keep using it. How are they supposed to know that the sequence lets them win because of a software error, rather than because of a particular intended behaviour? Or, for that matter, that it always lets the player win, rather than just happening to let them win when they try it because of a coin

  • 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:Idiotic Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:21PM (#34784542)

      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.

      It's not an idiotic assertion in that it's true in general (all casinos have a clause like "payouts only after verification"), but it is a bit of a non-sequitor.

      Basically, anytime the slot machine gives the jackpot, that machine is usually immediately taken offline and wheeled back for verification of the win. Of course, you're not allowed to see this, you only hope they're doing things like comparing the software against the government-escrowed copy (yes, the government maintains a copy of the software) and verifying the settings. Networked jackpots often have to confirm with the network operators in making sure the server actually sent the "win" command to the slot (networked jackpots are determined by the central server when you pull). At any point the casino can simply turn around and say "sorry, it was a glitch" and deny your jackpot. It's happened before.

  • So, to be clear... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amRadioHed (463061) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:06PM (#34784330)

    casinos exploiting human failings to make millions and millions of dollars is legal. People exploiting casino failings to make millions and millions of dollars is illegal.

  • by mug funky (910186) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:12PM (#34784406)

    i read a job app a few years ago for the dominant "pokie machine" developer in my state. reading the requirements was a bit of an insight into the sort of thing these people do:

    - high level mathematical modelling
    - statistical analysis
    - ability to develop for a statewide networked system ...the house always wins indeed. spread enough bell curves around enough machines and they'll all seem exactly within an arbitrary margin of error while overall they're heavily stacked.

    i hope this poor bastard wins his case.

  • Insider information (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:15PM (#34784452) Homepage Journal

    To distill the article, those machines have some software options, such as volume, screen brightness, and some game options, such as whether or not a Double-Up feature was enabled.

    Somehow the guy knew that if the Double-Up feature was enabled a software flaw would be exposed, whereby a certain sequence of button presses would trigger a jackpot (and the jackpot would not be recorded in the data log).

    The machines did not have Double-Up enabled by default, so this guy would ask casino techs to mess with settings, like the volume and brightness. While they were changing those settings he also asked to have the Double-Up enabled, thus "enabling" the bug.

    So the glaring question is how did this guy know about the "correct sequence of buttons" and the fact that it specifically had to be enabled via the Double-Up feature? To me this reeks of a developer slipping in a "glitch" to trigger a jackpot at will, and it was hidden with that Double-Up feature which they knew was disabled by default to keep the sequence from accidentally being discovered (or found via auditing).

    The real criminal is the insider that passed this info along, and presumably maintained anonymity and safety while his patsy actually went around and harvested the winnings, which I'm sure the software developer would receive a share of.

    • by Chyeld (713439) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dleyhc.> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:49PM (#34784860)

      As a youth, I used to play an old game called Sundog [wikimedia.org] on my Atari ST. It was a space faring/trading game where part of your objective was to buy/steal/find the resources a new religious colony demanded.

      One of the things I discovered were a series of glitches in the game that allowed me to skip the heavy trading of the game and make good money buying and selling 'inventory' items instead.

      From memory, a bug in the shopkeeper interactions allowed me to buy the second item in the inventory for the price of the first item. In weapon stores, the first item was always a cheap healing dodad, while the second item was always a fairly hefty priced force shield.

      So it started off with me getting cheap 'armor'. On top of this the shields had a set number of hits on them, and the 'glitched' copies, being uninitialized, effectively got an extra 'hit' out of them as the first hit set their 'remaining charges' to the max amount.

      At first I used that and the fact that you could carry more than one shield to 'hunt' muggers in the streets, if you wandered around you could get 'lucky' and suddenly find yourself surrounded by a group of people demanding your cash. If you choose to fight and survived, you could loot them for their cash and weapons and then go sell those on the black market in the nearest burger joint. It was 'OK' money, but I then discovered a way to make it even faster.

      You see, whenever I attempted to sell one of the 'uninitialized' shields I could never get more than the cost of those cheap health items. And while they sold at 'full' value when once they were initialized, each hit after that first one reduced their value. BUT what I discovered on accident was that you could SHOW the person you were selling to a fully charged 'legit' shield and once you and they were finished on haggling the price, you could give them any shield, regardless of it's remaining charges.

      Weapon costs varied planet from planet, so what I'd do is fly to the cheapest planet I could find and fill my ship with 'knockoff' shields, then head for the most expensive planet and reap 100-200% profits.

      My point is, I wasn't more than 12 when I found this out, on my own. There wasn't an internet back then, not for the public at least. This sort of glitch doesn't require insider knowledge, just someone with an idea of how these machines work and a willingness/ability to experiment on them.

      Of course, that doesn't always pan out. I loved Sundog but the thing I remember most about it was that the novella/backstory for it indicated that the whole reason I was doing all this was to clear my dead uncles debts and even indicated specifically how much I owed. The final stage of the game involved an extremely well hidden city on a planet that was only reachable once you purchased top of the line parts for your ship. When I got stumped on that stage (because I didn't even know there WAS a city to find) I decided the final part of the game must be collecting that sum so I could officially pay off his debts. I'm sure you can imagine my frustration when a year later, after having collected what I think was over five times the amount, I finally bumped into the hidden city while exploring and finished the game in less than 10 min after that.

  • Audit the Casinos (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsnorquist (1058924) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:17PM (#34784492)

    So can gamblers audit the casinos to ensure all the times they lost were not due to a "glitch"?

    • by blair1q (305137)

      You already do. It's called the Gaming Commission. One of their jobs is auditing casino games of all kinds, both in test and live situations.

  • 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.

  • by iceaxe (18903) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:29PM (#34784636) Journal

    That's not a bug, it's an easter egg.

  • Games You Can't Win. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:35PM (#34784710)

    I like seeing stories like this. Maybe if we have enough of 'em, people will realize that gambling when the house has a stake is a sucker's game.

    There's an anecdote in the book "Games You Can't Lose" by Harry Anderson (who played the judge in Night Court, and is a longtime stage magician and collector of cons and swindles). To paraphrase:

    One day on a whim, this guy places a bet at a sidewalk Three Card Monte game and of course he loses. So he starts watching carefully how the game is played. And he notices how the dealer ignores bets that are placed on the right card when someone else bets on the wrong one, and how a Monte game always has a bunch of shills around who will helpfully make the wrong bet in case none of the marks do.

    So the guy comes back the next day, and when the dealer calls for bets, the guy pulls out a staple gun and staples his dollar to the Queen. Bam! The first guy to ever win at Three Card Monte.

    And he pocketed his winnings, after the nurse at the emergency room un-stapled them from his forehead.

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:41PM (#34784778) Homepage

    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

    This wasn't about hitting buttons, they were using social engineering to enable a flaw that became exploitable. This is no different than screwing someone at a cash register by confusing them on the amount of change they're supposed to give you, an age-old grift.

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Friday January 07, 2011 @01:02AM (#34787652)
    If you're not a high roller, you're not supposed to win.
  • 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?
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Friday January 07, 2011 @10:26AM (#34790450)

    Don't Gamble.

    or

    Don't Gamble at Casino's that have their customers arrested for their mistakes.

    or

    Don't Gamble using electronic slot machines.

    All of the above would have more effect on the Casino's in questions than probably anything else.

  • by xenobyte (446878) on Friday January 07, 2011 @12:25PM (#34792058)

    Who's responsible for the errors in the first place?

    Either some developer didn't test his product properly, or his employer failed to do so before accepting it and putting it into production.

    Anyone who has done Computer Science 101 at a decent university or college knows that you can design tests and run those to prove 100% that no flaws exist in your code. It's usually called 'internal testing' and basically you test everything from the inside out, starting with the smallest 'lego' (typically helper algorithms) and work your way up into the more complex structures. As you know the building blocks works (because you already have tested those), testing the more complex things becomes easy, although extremely tedious. Back when I did CS we made a small 'chess display' program (show a chess board, enter moves and it validates the input then validate the moves according to the rules and finally update the board and wait for the next input) which took about 200 lines of code (Pascal I think it was). Testing this thing took well over 1.000 individual tests but then we could prove that it would behave exactly as it should no matter what input you gave it - barring hardware and OS malfunctions of course.

    Testing something like an operating system with millions of lines of code would require trillions of tests, but these could fairly easily be machine generated while parsing the code and batch executed.

    I have no idea how complex the 'operating system' for a slot machine is, but it can be tested just like everything else, and failing to do so is a major mistake in my book, one that should cost.

    If I were to decide I'd make the slot machine provider/developer liable for the losses incurred by casinos in cases like this. They provided the means for the fraud to take place and should thus be liable for damages. I do know of a case where a manufacturer of roulette tables that knew about some imbalance in the wheel but didn't fix it, ended up covering the losses incurred by casinos where the knowledge was exploited to place winning bets.

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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