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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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How Honest Are One-Armed Bandits?

24 April 2001

There is very little room for the chance of dishonesty and corruption in modern casino life. State regulatory boards and strict licensing procedures ensure the integrity of the manner in which casinos conduct business. When irregularities are detected, severe fines are imposed. The ever-present threat of loss of license also hangs over the heads of casino owners and operators.

The casinos are also very diligent in policing themselves. "Eye-in-the-sky" cameras monitor every nook and cranny of the property as well as every action of the players, dealers, change employees, and all other casino personnel. In addition to the video tape record, there are also supervisors and security people walking the floors at all times.

But what about what goes on inside the thousands of slot machines that represent the "bread and butter" of every casino operation? We take for granted the integrity of the integrated circuitry and the computer programming that governs the operation of each and every slot machine within the confines of state-licensed casinos. But should we?

Circuits and computer programs are not infallible. Oh, they may be perfect 99.99 percent of the time, but it would be silly to assume there is no way something could go out of kilter. There is always room for a margin of error, no matter how slight it may be. How do casinos protect you (and themselves) from slot machine fraud?

In the state of Illinois, anyway, it's a law that the computer chip (game EPROM) that governs the operation of the slot machine in which it is housed MUST be installed under the supervision of a representative of the Illinois Gaming Board and protected with a seal. The EPROM can never be inspected or the seal broken unless a state representative is present. Not every gaming jurisdiction requires that this procedure be followed.

It's a fact that every slot machine in every casino possesses individual technical and game characteristics that are unique. There are probably no two slot machines that are identical. To identify a machine as "95 percent payback" is a drastic simplification of what it really is. How are the paybacks distributed? What are the odds against hitting the top award?

A unique digital signature identifies every slot machine. Each game, each slot machine, possesses a different signature. For example, 3-coin "Five Times Pay" machines may appear to be the same on the outside but on the inside they are all very different and have unique digital signatures. The same is true for "Double Diamonds", "Red, White & Blue Sevens" and every other slot game.

Individual casinos are able to monitor the operations of their slot machines. After a machine pays a jackpot, it is usually tested to see if its computer program is up to snuff. Any hint of irregularity usually signals that the machine will be immediately shut down and inspected internally before it is put back into service.

Internal controls are great and state regulatory intervention is even better. But what if all the slot machines in place at all of the riverboat casino destinations in Illinois were placed online to a central state monitoring system? What if the digital signature of any slot machine could be called up at a moment's notice to spot check for accuracy?

The country of Australia already does this. The country's standards when it comes to the gaming industry are so high that every "electronic gaming device", whether it is located in a casino or in a bar, is online to a central monitoring system. Any machine at any time can be called up with its signature. If the signature deviates from what the central system says it should be, the system will shut the machine down until it is brought up to proper standards.

Nevada has more slot machines than any other state in the United States, yet there is no central monitoring required. All controls are the domain of each casino's internal operating procedure. Colorado, on the other hand, a relatively small gaming jurisdiction, does have central monitoring of all its slot machines. It just doesn't figure.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp