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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Illinois Gamblers Protected in "Chip Glitch"

1 October 2002

Perhaps many of you were as curious as I was a couple of weeks ago when the news story broke about faulty computer chips in certain slot machines located in Illinois casinos. The Illinois Gaming Board ordered the casinos to shut down the machines because the manufacturers failed to meet a 30-day deadline to correct the problem. The edict resulted in nearly 600 machines being taken out of service, roughly six percent of the total number of slots in the state.

With profits for both the casinos and the state suddenly in jeopardy, it didn't take long for the defective chips to be replaced and the lights of the machines turned back on. I found it curious that the problem was allowed to continue for as long as it did without the manufacturers doing something about it, and was not corrected until the profit churning talents of the machines were stifled.

Was the gambling public and the dollars they wagered on the machines sufficiently protected during the chip crisis? What was the precise nature of the defect and how did it affect play and the potential to win? To get some answers I contacted the public information office of the Illinois Gaming Board and was put in touch with spokesman Dennis Brown.

"The defect was uncovered through test results conducted by an independent laboratory at the request of Illinois regulators,' Brown said. "It involved the game EPROMS (computer chips) in certain machines manufactured by International Game Technology and Bally Gaming and Systems.

"The defect was, to be very honest, minute, and the potential for it to cause a flaw in the operation of the machines very remote, something like a one-tenth of a one-percent chance. But the administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board, Philip C. Parenti, insisted that the problem be addressed and corrected to protect the interests of the gaming public and the integrity of casino gambling in this state.

"The potential problems that could have come as a result of the defect were two-fold: First, certain progressive machines linked to both a monetary award and a merchandise award, such as a car, may not have 'locked up' after the jackpot was hit, creating a situation where the customer could have continued playing and not realized he or she had won.

"Second, there was the possibility on certain machines that the payout process on tokens from internal coin hopper would 'lock up' before the total amount won by the customer was paid out and result in a RAM (random access memory) clear. This would not have meant the player would lose anything because the remaining unpaid coins would still have been on the machine's credit meter."

Brown emphasized that throughout this process, the Illinois casino properties themselves were not at fault. It was the responsibility of the manufacturers. The Illinois Gaming Board sent letters on June 21 to both IGT and Bally informing them of the independent laboratory test results. The manufacturers were informed they had 30 days to correct the problem or the machines would be taken out of service.

When the manufacturers didn't follow through, the IGB ordered the shutdown until it was corrected. This time action was swift.

"Most other gaming jurisdictions around the country (including Nevada) didn't revoke the chips," Brown noted. "All of them are still studying the problem. But the Illinois Gaming Board tends to be more conservative when it comes to protecting the best interests of the gambling public. Mr. Parenti didn't even want a remote chance for the games in question to malfunction, so he took the conservative opinion and ordered them revoked."

Brown revealed that 554 slot machines were affected statewide. They included 215 machines at the Hollywood Casino Aurora, 110 machines at Alton, 71 at the Grand Victoria in Elgin, 40 at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, 40 at Metropolis, 38 at Jumer's in Rock Island, 24 in Peoria, 16 at Empress Casino Joliet, and none at Harrah's Casino Joliet.

Slot machine manufacturers routinely send their computer chips to independent testing laboratories prior to mass production of new games to ensure quality and integrity. Apparently, the flaws that led to the slot machine shutdown in Illinois slipped by.

Approval for slot games is done by individual states. Just because a game is approved in one state doesn't mean it can be approved in the next, even though the information requested from the manufacturers is for all intents and purposes identical.

Did the Illinois Gaming Board overreact? I think not. I believe that we as players should all feel a little safer that they're looking out for our best interests.

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