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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Slot Cheating Shakes Up Gaming Industry

18 July 2001

The recent discovery of a software glitch in some WMS slot machine products that allowed players to cheat the machines is creating waves in the entire gaming industry.

The so-called "security anomaly" was uncovered at the Motor City Casino in Detroit, Michigan. Players discovered a way to manipulate the bill (paper currency) acceptor on some WMS machines and receive more credits than they paid for.

It's generally the betting public that sometimes looks with a jaundiced eye at the casino owners and operators when it comes to the integrity of the games. Here's a case of the public cheating the casinos, a practice that can carry with it some devastating consequences.

Every slot player has probably observed the disclaimer decal attached to all electronic gaming devices: "Machine malfunction voids all plays". This means that if a player wins a jackpot on a machine that is found to be defective in any way, the casino can void the jackpot.

It can happen. Every slot machine's program is thoroughly inspected every time it pays a jackpot. If there is any irregularity discovered, the jackpot payoff can be held up until the problem is thoroughly researched.

Casinos go to great lengths to preserve the integrity of the games. Even though it may be tempting to play a slot machine that obviously is not working properly, such as giving you more credits than you paid for, paying you more coins than you are entitled to, or giving you a "free" spin, it's always best to stop playing the machine and alert casino floor personnel at once. Whatever small edge you could gain could be negated one hundred-fold by losing a jackpot.

Chicago-based WMS is one of the largest slot machine manufacturers in the world. Even though the security problem was isolated at the Detroit casino, the company is being forced to correct the problem on machines located in every casino in the country. The affected machines were taken out of service in some jurisdictions, including the Midwest, until the problem is resolved.

The gaming industry is now faced with this dilemma: If a serious security problem was found with the currency acceptors on WMS gaming machines, what about the currency acceptors on the machines of other manufacturers such as IGT?

The method that was used to cheat the WMS machines was not a particularly simple one to perform. It took effort and know-how on the part of the cheater. But once the glitch was uncovered, it didn't take long for the practice to spread. Nor did it take long for the whistle to blow.

The glitch is easily corrected by replacing the defective chip with a new one. But until this is done, any machine that has been disabled by the casino is one that is just taking up space.

WMS manufactures a variety of popular video slot products, including Monopoly, Reel 'em In, Jackpot Party, and Top Banana. The glitch affected only a portion of the WMS machines. Furthermore, there have been no reported cheating incidents outside of Detroit.

Whereas all WMS machines were taken out of service in Illinois and Indiana, they were not shut down in Nevada. Obviously the casinos stand to lose more by turning the machines off than by keeping them open and risking losing money to would-be cheaters. You can bet, however, that the computer upgrades on the machines will be accomplished with dispatch.

Meanwhile, security precautions are being stepped up in casinos across the country to make quick work of anyone caught attempting to manipulate currency acceptors or any other aspect of slot machine play. Once there is a perception of vulnerability, there are people out there who look for all ways to capitalize on it.

As for currency acceptor fraud, every slot manufacturer in the world is addressing the issue as this is being written.

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