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Is Figuring Out A Slot Machine Software Glitch & Making Money From It A Crime?

from the apparently dept

Over the last few years, casinos around the globe have been using increasingly high tech slot machines, but with high tech slot machines come the usual bugs. And that raises some interesting legal questions. In the past, we’ve noted numerous examples of casinos blaming software glitches for slot machine awards, and refusing to pay them out. And, usually, they’re being allowed to do this. That seems a little troubling, but it can get a bit more complex, as in one case a few years ago, where a guy used a slot machine that had faulty software — and was arrested for doing so. Each time he put in $1, it was credited as $10. Now, once he realizes this is happening, perhaps you can consider that fraud, but it does seem a bit dangerous to blame the guy for what was really a software glitch by the casino or slot machine vendor.

The latest such case, found via Slashdot, might not be quite as troubling. In this case, a guy more or less figured out a software glitch in a variety of slot machines that would enable a series of button presses that would lead to larger awards, and then he used that to win a lot of money. Now, I can definitely see the case for fraud here (and the guy has now been arrested). He didn’t just spot a machine with a glitch, but he then actively exploited that glitch, knowing it was a glitch, and took steps to enable that glitch on various machines (to make it work, he apparently had to have casino staff change some settings on the machines, which they would do since he was a “high roller.”)

Given that he was knowingly abusing this glitch, the fraud claims seem much more reasonable. However, there is still something worrying about charging someone for a crime for doing what a computer system allows them to do. He didn’t technically hack the system — he just figured out a bug in the software and used that to his advantage. There is at least some gray area, concerning whether or not some of the liability should fall back on the maker of the slot machine for leaving such a glitch in their software.

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Reader Comments

Crime isn’t about what is possible, it is about intent. His intent was to defraud the casino. It wasn’t “oops” and there is a jackpot, it is all about taking advantage of a weak spot and stealing the money.

By your logic, it would be fine to steal from the cash register at a store if they didn’t close the cash drawer completely, because that isn’t stealing, that is just taking advantage of a drawer closing glitch.

Sorry, but your logic is a fail on this one, completely.

Sorry, but your logic is a fail on this one, completely.

I think you’re making the mistake of looking at this from purely binary viewpoint. Go back and read the last sentence of Mike’s post. He suggested that the software manufacturers should bear “some” responsibility. And to this, I agree. Not all, but some. To use your example, let’s say that a cash register manufacturer makes a faulty batch where the cash drawer will not close properly and then open up by itself, perhaps after the cashier has walked away. A “drawer closing glitch”. The defect is found after a pattern of lost money is investigated. You’re telling me that the situation is so black and white that you wouldn’t see the manufacturer bearing at least some of the responsibility for the thefts?

Re: Re:

Indeed they shouldnt. People may choose not to buy their faulty products, or the manufacturer should reimburse their customers for all those seriously flawed cash registers.

However saying their are implicated in (any liability, however small implies they are implicated) theft because someone stole from their register while it shouldn’t have been open is going too far in my mind.

Re: Re: Re:

the manufacturer should reimburse their customers for all those seriously flawed cash registers

By my reading, you’re contradicting yourself. First you say that the manufacturers should reimburse their customers — which would indicate that they are responsible to some measure — but then you say that are not “implicated” or have any “liability” — which would indicate that they are not responsible. So, which is it? Are you making some kind of semantic distinction between “responsible” and “liable”?

Re: Re: Re: Re:

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But none of this implies the manufacture bears any responsibility in the theft that has taken place.

I think it does. But I’m mostly referring to a moral obligation, not necessarilly a legal one. Is the manufacturer legally responsible for, at least in part, the lost money? I don’t know, but probably not. But if you just ask the specific question “is the manufacturer partly responsible?”, I think the answer is clearly yes. In the hypothetical case of the cashier manufacturer and the real case of the slot machine manufacturer.

Re: Re: Re: Re:

from what I am getting he is saying that the manufacturer is responsible for the quality of their product and liable for providing a product of lesser quality than promised. Therefore they should be expected to be responsible for the amount of the product not the amount of the crime. It is the responsibility of the casino to verify the quality of the purchased product before putting it to use.

I have to say that I believe the first guy who got 9 free dollars for ever dollar put in the machine should not have been arrested, however the “high roller” is definitely “hacking” the system by forcing the machine to function in a way that would allow him a better return on his odds.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

I have to say that I believe the first guy who got 9 free dollars for ever dollar put in the machine should not have been arrested

I agree. How was he to know it wasn’t the expected behaviour of the machine? It’s not his responsibility to ensure the machine is behaving sanely, just to put his money in and maybe get some out.

Re: Re: Re:

Re: Re: Re:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That person using the self checkouts would still be breaking the law. As soon as they realize that they are getting too much change (or maybe all of their money back, whatever), and continue to do it, they have the intent required by law to be charged with fraud.

Using a machine glitch to beat a slot game is no different, in my mind, than counting cards.

Actually, it is very different. On the machine, you are doing something to steal money with certainty. Card counting is a skill, and is still not entirely certain. It is one of the reasons that most casinos play blackjack with multiple decks (usually 5 or more) and cut at least 1 pack up for the stop card. That all but entirely removes the card count benefit, unless a significant number of faces and aces come up very early in the shoe. Otherwise, the card count advantage is miniscule.

You are confusing outright fraud with attempting to gain an advantage. One is a game of change, one is no chance at all, it’s a certain payout.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Using a machine glitch to beat a slot game is no different, in my mind, than counting cards.

Counting cards is not illegal.

Re: Re:

In the latter case:

There is a HUGE difference between RESPONSIBILITY and LIABILITY.

The Slot Machine Manufacturer/programmer should share in the LIABILITY for the losses of the casino that are not able to be recovered.

As for RESPONSIBILITY for the crime, the guy intentially took actions to enable the machine to pay out more than the posted/expected returns. This action is where the FRAUD part comes into play. The ONLY people that should share in the RESPONSIBILITY for the crime committed is the guy commiting the crime, and any staff member that made changes to the machines settings WITH the knowledge of WHY the guy was requesting the changes.

In the former case where $1 was being registered as $10, that is simple THEFT. If not legal theft and least moral theft. The guy OBVIOUSLY knew that $1 was being counted as $10. His continued actions beyond the first time (maybe a second to confirm it) he realized that it was not working properly constitutes THEFT. Now if that glitch required ANY action other than simply inserting the coin to cause the error to occur then there should be no legal question as to it being theft or not. If it was simply inserting the coin I can see some gray area, but from a simply moral stand point it is still theft.

Re: Re: Re:

If it was simply inserting the coin I can see some gray area, but from a simply moral stand point it is still theft.

Whether the term “theft” applies in either of the cases is irrelevent to the point of whether the slot machine manufacture bears at least some of the responsiblity. The other poster, Jan Breens, may be viewing this in terms of legal liability, but Mike didn’t use that term. He just suggested that the manufacturer may be partly “responsible”.

One one side, I think that, if you intentionally “trick” a slot machine to give you more of a payout than you know you deserve, you should be punished according to the law. You knew it was wrong, but did it anyway. That’s very clear in my mind. But if you had to assign some subjective “responsiblity percentage” to the manufacturer for the overall problem, shouldn’t that be something greater than 0? In other words, regardless of whether the manufacturer is legally liable to provide reimbursement, Best hotels and casinos in atlantic city can’t you at least say that their programming of the machine was part of the chain of events which directly led to the theft and therefore bears some moral responsibility? Or can a company just put out flawed products and have no responsibility at all?

Re: Re: Re: Re:

WOW, I find it amazing how clueless some readers are.

My first statement WAS: there is a HUGE difference between RESPONSIBILITY and LIABILITY. You then turn the meanind around to demonstrate your STUPIDITY.

Liability for losses NOT RECOVERED SHOULD fall on the manufacturer and NOT the casino. BUT the RESPONSIBILITY for the ACTIONS of the Gamblers still falls on them. They KNEW their actions were WRONG, the outcome OF their ACTIONS resulted in the losses and therefore their actions constitutes either FRAUD or THEFT depending on how the laws interpret the difference between theft and fraud.

EVEN little mikee got the definitions of Liability and Responsibility right. WOW

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Liability for losses NOT RECOVERED SHOULD fall on the manufacturer and NOT the casino. BUT the RESPONSIBILITY for the ACTIONS of the Gamblers still falls on them.

Based on the above, it sounds like our thoughts on this topic are close, so why the ad hominem attacks? Have you considered the possibility that the person you’re talking to may not actually be “clueless” or “stupid”, but there may just be a simple misunderstanding between two people?

Re: Re:

Re: Re: Re:

Casino’s encourage people to try to exploit bugs in slot machines

Actually I think they do.

Casino’s actively encourage people to think they can come out ahead of a slot machine, and people think they’re doing that all the time.

That’ why some people get upset if someone takes their “warmed up slot”, or why they’ll wager more after they see certain sequences.

I really don’t think a player should be penalized because they actually discover a way that works.

Re: Re: Re:

You can’t arbitrarily assign a duty to this guy that he doesn’t have. It is not his obligation to expect to lose and report it as wrong when he doesn’t.

As for MileyCyrus.UK Bitstarz casino affiliates the 10 for 1 input, it’s not at all unreasonable for him to figure that this is a promotional scheme functioning as intended by the casino. Many casinos offer free money to play, and an automated 10 for 1 would be a great way to make that more efficient. Then you simply set the odds to account for this, but start with some friendlier promotional odds that reel in the players.

Later they’re still psyched up about getting the 10 for 1 promo, and the adjusted odds just begin to feel like maybe their luck has run out, but hey who cares if I’m getting to play 10 bucks for one. It’s perfectly natural for people to assume that Casinos do this sort of thing all the time. Why would he have even doubted this was the case?

The sad part is that Mike is pretty much saying that the guy did commit fraud on the casino.

So to disagree with him and “fail” him, you create a strawman where Imaginary Mike says it should be fine to steal from a casino.

Now that is what I call a “logic fail”, and it’s documented, to boot. STRAWMAN.

Re: Crime

> Crime isn’t about what is possible, it is about intent.

It’s actually both. Most crimes have both a mens rea (intent) and a mens acta (action) requirement. Both must be present for the crime to be complete.

Re: Re: Crime

Re: Re: Re: Crime

No. Mens rea is something altogether different than conspiracy.

Mens rea could be as simple as accidentally walking out of a grocery store with a cartful of unpaid groceries versus going to the store with the purpose of stealing the groceries and actually shoplifting them. In both cases the acts are identical, but if you can demonstrate the lack of intent (such as you were caught while on the way back into the store with your checkbook and pen in hand with a befuddled and apologetic lookk on your face), then there was in fact no crime even though the actions were identical.

Re: Re: Re: Crime

> crimes of intent are usually termed as “conspiracy to commit”

No, Top slot offers they aren’t. Basic murder is a good example. You have to have both the act and the intent to kill in order to be guilty of murder. Conspiracy doesn’t enter into it.

Re: Re: Crime

Re: Re: Re: Crime

How can that be true for manslaughter?

You can have negligence that is criminal. A person acts negligently when he should have been aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a certain result will occur because of his conduct. The idea is that even though a negligent person is unaware of the risk and therefore does not have a “criminal mind,” the law will impute that awareness to him because a reasonable person would have been so aware.

Re: Re:

Generally, crime isn’t about intent, it’s about actions.

Crimes are about both intent and action. Intent is the “mens rea,” and action is the “actus reus.” You need both to be a crime.

No, his intent wasn’t to defraud the casino, it was to win. Big difference. Casinos are all about that allure of winning and they are run on it.

Gamblers do what they do to win money. He played the game and won money. Was it his fault there was a bug in the system the casino used? No. So why is it his fault for using that fault to win money.

Hell, by him asking the casino staff to modify the machines to his advantage and them doing it shows that he wasn’t exploiting anything but was playing the game. The casino staff could have said no, but b/c they were greedy and wanted more of his money the agreed.

And going to your analogy, it is flawed. If the cash register miscalculated the change back in your favor and the attendant gave it to you and you noticed, would you comment? Very few people would, but if you don’t are you trying to defraud the store?

“His intent was to defraud the casino. It wasn’t “oops” and there is a jackpot. “

Allow me to respond to your argument by using Mike’s own argument (hopefully you’ll see the irony in even arguing that point)

“Given that he was knowingly abusing this glitch, the fraud claims seem much more reasonable”

Moral: don’t argue with someone who agrees with you, it just confuses people.

Re: Re:

All it proves is that even when presented with the obvious, TD soft peddles it and at best suggests it is “more reasonable”.

The argument is why you even start down this road. It is clear that this guy continued to use a defect in the system to defraud the casinos of money, and apparently even took steps to assure that the circumstances were right for it to occur. There is no “more reasonable” here, just fraud.

Arguing any other people is meaningless, because the illegal act still occurs.

Now, as a matter of contract law, might the machine maker have some sort of liability issue to the casino for the malfunctioning machine? It would depend on how that malfunction occurred. If it was a setup or operations issue, the answer would be no. If there was a clear bug in the software that happened regardless of the steps taken by the casino, then probably yes. But there is no direct liability connection between the player and the machine maker. Each of those is a separate issue, no one ball of wax.


As with anything.

The more complicated you make it, the more that can go WRONG.

from a simple Display program to WHO KNOWS WHAT?

Its the same with all programs/hardware/and your Stove.

Make it SIMPLE and it will work every time.

Small compact and easy to service. The MORE CRAP you install and there are more chances to FAIL.

If you knew a way to make your car work better, would you do it? If you could make your Laundry washer work better, WOULD YOU? IF you could change things in your OWN FAVOR, WOULD YOU?

Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 7th, 2011 @ 6:17am

I absolutely agree. I am involved in the gaming world (the legal/regulatory side), and it’s all about intent. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

As an aside, all slot machines in today should have something on them saying “Malfunction voids all pays and plays,” which saves the casino from being taken advantage of.

For the state in which I work, all slot machines go to GLI for independent testing. The people who test the machines are absolutely brilliantly minded people, but even they can’t catch everything.

There are also errors that can be made by the slot techs. There is quite a bit to optioning a machines, and this differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Then, factor in different printers, bill validators, and other components and it becomes increasingly more difficult to avoid all errors. Setting up the currency wrong, could result a multi-million dollar error for the casino. This has been proven in the past by slot technicians who incorrectly setup a machine for caribbean currency instead of USD. This results in each credit a player puts into the machine, it is automatically multiplied by a variable based on the currency setting. In order to prevent this, the presence of gaming agents/gaming control board employees is required in many states. Thing such as bill testing a machine also prevents this from occurring.

Maybe a little off topic, but just some information for you all.

You say slot machine, I say voting machine.

mis-use & hacking

this seems like a rather questionable way of looking at this issue Mike.

The laws around “computer hacking” have for years included specific points on any use/access that can be achieved through easy or simple methods (for example default passwords, or in this case, software bugs) that the user / offender KNOWS are unintended / unintentional. A quick google brings up this:

A person commits the offense of criminal use of a computer if, having no right to do so or any reasonable ground to believe the person has such a right, the person knowingly accesses, causes to be accessed, or exceeds the person’s authorized access to a computer, computer system, computer program, computer network, or any part of a computer system or network

This clearly (to me) includes what you describe above. Saying some liability, for Free online doubledown bitcoin casino the crime committed using a piece of software, should be directed at the software manufacturer seems equally distorted to me. Unless of course, serious negligence on the part of the manufacturer can be demonstrated. However in the case of a software bug that seems rather unlikely to me.

A computer system “allowing” someone to commit a crime doesn�t change the nature of the action undertaken by the person involved.

Re: mis-use & hacking

You have to understand, this is how TD looks at many things. Piracy is wrong, it’s illegal, it’s violating the law, but because it is technically possible, it is somehow someone else’s fault.

No matter what defects may exist in the slot machine, the intent of the “high roller” was to defraud the casino. He didn’t win the money fairly, he took advantage of a programming glitch to rob them. No different from finding a door open and stealing what is in someones car or finding the door open to a store late and night and thinking it’s okay to steal their inventory.

It is truly a logical fail, and it explains why TD often has such a weird view of things.

Re: Re: mis-use & hacking

Not really. TD has always said that piracy is against the law. What Mike and others often aregue, is that the laws should be changed in favour of the consumers, not faceless megacorps.

On this particular issue, however, I agree with those who find Mike’s conclusion questionable. Technically speaking, it is fraud. And being technically correct is the best kind of correct.

Re: Re: Re: mis-use & hacking

Not really. TD has always said that piracy is against the law. What Mike and others often aregue, is that the laws should be changed in favour of the consumers, not faceless megacorps.

Really though, it’s the same thing. Fraud is illegal, but somehow TD appears to be shoving the responsibility off onto everyone else.

The piracy deal is the same. It may be illegal, but because it is technically possible and it happens because “the industry isn’t meeting people’s needs” it is somehow right. The burden of responsibility gets transferred to someone else, not the lawbreaker.

This case just makes the mentality and the logic so much clearer.

Re: Re: Re: Re: mis-use & hacking

From a civil standpoint, if I was that casino, I would sue the HELL out of that slot manufacturer for negligence in selling me a faulty product that put my business at risk. Which is pretty much what Mike is suggesting here in so many words. Why *wouldn’t* I?

To say the manufacture bears no responsibility whatsoever, simply because they didn’t do the stealing, is naive.

Re: Re: Re: mis-use & hacking

Not really. TD has always said that piracy is against the law. What Mike and others often aregue, is that the laws should be changed in favour of the consumers, Online bitcoin casino real money free bonus australia not faceless megacorps.

I think you’re right in that TD often encourages more sane laws in favor of the public vs corporations, but as far as piracy goes, my take on the TD line is that legality is a non-issue now that technology makes it hard NOT to copy something, what’s important is finding a way to make money in spite of it. Pragmatism is the name of the game.

Now the *comments* on TD run all over the map. There’s a lot of soft endorsement of illegal distribution, along with people who are outright loud about it. There are people who seem to think that artists are lazy chumps who want a free ride, and people who apparently have a problem with anyone exercising any legal muscle. Luckily there are some dissenting voices of reason, who are neither “IP Maximalists” nor “Freetards”. (All these phrases and sloganeering are dumb as hell and only serve to trivialize how complicated these issues really are. “Pooperty” anyone? Let’s cut out this ad campaign for issues and appeal to people through their reason and intellect)

I do kind of wish they would bring in some writers with more varied opinions. For instance, I agree with the criticism that TD loves to dispense business advice for musicians without any real clear idea of what goes into a musical career. The complicated web of credits and legalities that go into bringing multiple creative people together with their own input to and ownership of a project (We’re not all solo artists!), the insane logistics of performing on a consistent basis and taking it on the road, the idea that fans just buy the hell out of merch, the notion that the internet has made distribution *easier* (it’s not, it’s *cheaper*, but only to get started), and the idea that grass roots projects can “bubble up” to the surface without a professional PR push and management team (Amanda Palmer works with a publicist and several managers, besides the fact she’s “married” to Neil Gaiman, one of the most popular writers of the last 20 years. She’s not a model for future musicians). But the reality is that even a no name blogger is pitched music by major labels every day, so not having a professional management/publicist team to pitch you, more importantly to give you legitimacy, means your emails most likely will never be opened.

Now, it is true that some artists will in fact bubble up, but it’s mostly going to be boring mid-level talent with an interesting story behind them. Meh. I’d trade a thousand Susan Boyles/Ted Williams/Homeless Flavor of the Month for just one Jim Croce or Leonard Cohen.

Re: Re: Re: Re: mis-use & hacking

Re: Re: Re: Re: mis-use & hacking

We have a winner.

Soft peddling the legality of piracy isn’t the half of it. Really, they key is that all discussions start with “now that music has no market value. “, and doesn’t consider the idea that this condition is abnormal. When you start from an odd point of view like TD does, you end up down some dusty dirt roads of thought.

You won’t find many shining examples of musicians “making it”, because most of the examples that keep coming up here are bands who made it on the label system, or who are playing indie when they really are not. Some of the examples are artists on the back side of a good label career, selling their time to wealthy patrons who basically pay them to write music nobody will even listen to. On one side, it’s nasty to think of the artists talking down the label system, and then cashing the checks, living on their licensing deals, and collecting royalties up the wazzo every time their stuff plays, and on the other side you have people who most of us wouldn’t listen to if we were paid. That doesn’t make for much advancement.

I would give up all of the youtube age to get to sit through one more Frank Zappa concert. Damn, I miss his wit, skill, and intelligence (and potty humor).

Re: mis-use & hacking

Re: mis-use & hacking

This guy didn’t do anything himself except use the slot machines. Any tinkering to the machine, as explained in the summary up there, was done by casino workers. Yes, he had to ask them, but they said yes and did the work.

By your logic, if I went to the batting cages, chose a cage that I knew had an adjustable throwing machine, asked an employee to adjust it so that it would throw a couple extra balls for my dollar and he agreed and did so, I would be guilty of a crime.

In the case of the casino, the only “crime” i see, is the foolishness of the casino workers to adjust the machines that this guy was winning on. This should be a lesson to the casino only, and they should fix their faulty machines.


You cash register analogy is woefully inadequete and not similiar at all.

Let’s go for another one.

Let’s say you just put a dollar into change machine and instead of giving you 4 quarters, it gives 8. You try it again and the same thing happens.

How much blame do you really have for a faulty machine?

Re: Silliness

Well, if you keep doing it over and over, ripping off the guy who owns the machine, you are still stealing.

One time – huh, thats strange

Second time – satisfies your experimental curiousity

After that, there ought to be some moral obligation to let the guy who owns the machine know, so he isn’t out a bunch of money.

Re: Re: Silliness

I’m somewhat on the fence about this, and though I totally see your point here, I also wonder: what if the change machine was covered in flashing neon signs encouraging you to spend as much money as possible in it and tantalizing you with giant jackpots?

I’m curious to know if there are rules posted near the slot machine, because to me, slots seem like a “beat the machine” game: even though there is no actual challenge and nothing you can do to improve your odds, slots create a false sense of participation with all their bells and whistles (modern slots decide if you have won the instant you press the button, but they still drag out the process) – so if you actually do find a way to “beat the machine”, is that necessarily wrong?

Re: Re: Silliness

Re: Silliness

To use your change machine analogy, using the 2-3 one dollar bills in your pocket is discovering the bug, what this guy did was going to the bank and getting a large stack of one dollar bills to go back and sit at the change machine till it was empty.

One is a bug, the other is fraud. It’s a question of intent.

Vary dark gray

I agree with AC#1 that what he did was fraud. The analogy was way off, but it’s still fraud. This guy didn’t just do it at one casino, he did it at multiple ones and they found he was planning to do it world wide.

Here’s my question, How much coding does there have to be to open this loophole? This is obviously a glitch in what controls the payout. So if this code can be so easily abused by this guy, how much easier could it be to abuse it by the casino itself?