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The Almighty Buck

Net Vegas 165

Makarand writes "Vegas has to have the best of tech to keep the plotters away. Popular Science has an online article on how networks are playing an important role in Las Vegas. Welcome to Net Vegas where slot machines are networked and surveillance grids monitor everything that goes on. Net Vegas proves to be the best and the harshest test pad for new tech. Net Vegas will eventually move out of the city and into your homes using the web."
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Net Vegas

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  • So, are we going to be seeing more levels of various hacks coming through hot-cracking the slot machines, or hacking the roulette table so it always lands on 0 or 00? With all this new high-tech gambling, there are bound to be areas where a good sys-admin could help or break a casino. I wouldn't mind doing either, as long as I got my fair cut ^_^ Since I'll probably be living it up in Vegas for spring break, why not see if I can get a nice little laptop cracking action going :p Anyone want me to be on the slots for them? Before or after the cracking?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      save a quarter to call home from jail after you hit the big one
    • Re:Hacking Roulette? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cwis42 ( 563232 ) <cwis@free.EINSTEINfr minus physicist> on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:15AM (#4623647)

      Quoting the article: None more so than Ronald Dale Harris, whose job as a software engineer for the state Gaming Control Board was to write slot machine anti-cheating software. Harris surreptitiously coded a hidden software switch--tripped by inserting coins in a predetermined sequence--that would trigger cash jackpots. After retooling more than 30 machines, Harris and accomplices made the rounds, walking away with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Harris was caught when one of his confederates implicated him after being busted in Atlantic City for rigging a Keno game. In 1998, Harris was sentenced to seven years. (Emphasis mine.)

      • by Kierthos ( 225954 )
        And if someone can do this with a physical machine, and do it long enough to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, then you see why I will never play on any online casino.

        "We've coded this roulette wheel to only pay the short odds on a winning hit 85% of the time."

    • Re:Hacking Roulette? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by His Excellency ( 618672 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:59AM (#4623768)
      Hacking Roulette, was doable back in the 1960s. These guys from MIT built the world's first wearable computer, and were able to predict where the ball was going to land [].
    • Actually, the casinos have baited the roulette tables. These days roulette tables have a display showing the last 20 numbers that have come up. Anyone who knows odds understands that the past numbers don't matter, but on a psychological level, people will react to that display, betting for a trend or against a trend, depending on the gambler. Either way, it means more money on the table and more possible money for the casino.

      Of course, the American roulette tables started the whole added percentage thing by adding a "00" to the European version. It's all about the small percentages...

      • ...

        Could you explain please? The nit-picker in me wants to say that since past trends doesn't matter, the casino can't possibly influence someone to bet 'wrong'... so the ammount of money would be the same either way.

        The 0 and 00 is how the money is made, I thought.
        • The casino wins in roulette if you put money down on the table and it has a reasonable chance of gettting it.

          There are two ways displays work. First, it attracts casual gambling by those who might be walking by, see the displayed trend, and put money down because they feel "lucky" betting for/against the trend. Supermarkets call this an impulse buy.

          Second, if you have a roulette player there who MIGHT bet trends, he/she will risk more money during trends even though that is completely illogical. Again, the concept of "luck."

          The 0 and 00 do make the core of the money for the casino. And it makes even more if there is more money on the table when a "trend" stops. There is a 1/29 chance for a big win for the casino, and a smaller win if the trends stops against the way the majority of the players bet. The casinos lose
          if trends last a long period of time (ie. anything that is highly improbable).
          • There are two ways displays work. First, it attracts casual gambling by those who might be walking by, see the displayed trend, and put money down because they feel "lucky" betting for/against the trend. Supermarkets call this an impulse buy.

            Oh. Duh. =p

            I was thinking too much about the game mechanics, and not enough about the actual fact that *people* were playing the game. Whoopsie.
  • well.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 08, 2002 @02:58AM (#4623588)
    "Net Vegas will eventually move out of the city and into your homes using the web."

    I don't know if I want networked slot machines in my home, but if I could access the refridgerator from the computer I could check for beer supply. Now for a remote controlled refridgerator...
    • "Net Vegas will eventually move out of the city and into your homes using the web."

      One of those live in hookers might not be to shabby either.
    • And you'll need something to run the beer from the fridge to your command centre. This Dinosaur home robot [] might do the trick. But count your small kids and family pets early and often!
  • My friend does this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:08AM (#4623622)
    I have a friend that works on these things at a casino in my area (indian res, not vegas) and I guess it is basically a net admin position. He works on slot machines and stuff over there, they use some Linux, NT, and Novel? We discussed it a bit, I was pretty surprised that slot machines where that techy now.

    One of the senior projects at the college nearby also involved computerising the casino. They developed some sort of tracking system involving PDA's for dealers...not exactly sure because I didn't see it - only heard about it. I guess they already had it sold a few times before even finishing :P

    Yep, where people throw money away other people can pick it up :P

    • by Anonymous Coward
      OK... who rat'd on me??? For the record (based on the AC info), I am the person who works for the American Indian casino (name and location obviously with-held). Interestly enough, as noted in the article, we are actually the Indian casino with the "Wheel of Fortune" machines.

      The computer layout is actually a pretty complex mix of new and legacy systems, quite an adventure to learn and interact with. Contrary to the flamebaits comment, NT/2K systems are used for desktop stations. All the slots are proprietary, closely monitored on a separate network, and linked thru AIX and RS6K systems. Many of the touch-screen floor terminals are Linux based. Add together a smattering of everything from DOS to Novell to *nix on the backend servers.

    • I was pretty surprised that slot machines where that techy now.

      What? Surely you didn't expect them to be randomly stopped spinning reels, did you? ;-)

      Ever since I figured out that the internal computers can control exactly which icon the reel stops on, I've stopped playing any slots. What's the point? Unless you know the tricks for each machine, you'll always lose.

      • You mean you played slots in the first place? I thought only grannies played slots. I mean the odds are some of the worst in the house. If you want to make your dollar last play BlackJack. That's where you will find me in a week or so.
        • Ah, cultural difference. ;-) Here in the UK most bars usually have a couple of "slots", but we don't call them that. Chucking a few pounds into one now and again is common among everyone...but not me since I was about 18 years old...
      • You'll always lose in Vegas, period. Any game. Every game is in the house's favor. Just go to Vegas, have a blast, and expect to lose money.

        My wife & I go every 6 months and have a ball. The trick to Vegas is to *knw* you're going to lose. Then say, "I'm gonna lose $1K/day" and expect it. That's how to have fun. People who go to Vegas expecting to win end up having a miserable time.
        • Funny, how come I know many professional gamblers that live in Vegas and make all their money at the casinos?
        • Every game but one, poker. You're not playing against the house. You rent the table from the house (paying the rake), and you are free to take money from drunk men with medallions and senior citizens.

          • Sorry, but 5 games are beatable.

            Live poker, but you have to ge really good. Those senior citizens are quite good.

            Video poker. Some casinos have VP machines which return over 100% in the long run with correct play and maximum coins bet. However, it's a full time job to be in the long run.

            Race books are beatable if you are very good and knowlegable.

            Sports books can be beaten as well. The casinos took big hits on basketball over/under bets by a group of players using computerized analysis and prediction software.

            Blackjack is beatable at least until they suspect you are counting cards at which point you'll be banned.
        • You'll always lose in Vegas, period.

          A couple that's friends with my Dad go to Vegas almost monthly, and always come back winners. They play video blackjack and craps.
          • A couple that's friends with my Dad go to Vegas almost monthly, and always come back winners. They play video blackjack and craps.

            I'm sorry, but they're either exagerrating or they haven't been doing it very long. Check the odds. [] Unless you're Rain Man, you can't possibly beat the house on blackjack, and even if you are Rain Man, you can't beat the house on craps.

            Here are the only ways to make money, long-term, on gambling:
            • Play blackjack, perfectly, counting all the cards. This will put the house advantage at somewhere between 0.00 and -0.01. If you make even one mistake an hour, you've blown your advantage.
            • Play video poker when there's a huge jackpot. Even so, you need a bankroll that's approximately the size of the jackpot, and you'll lose most of it before you hit the jackpot. And if someone else hits it first, you've lost a ton of money. When the jackpot is big enough to have a chance of winning, there will be a lot of competitors trying to get it before you.
            • Play Pai-Gow Poker against stupid people
            • Play poker against other players (i.e. not against the house). This one actually works pretty well, long-term. But it takes a lot of work.
            • Open your own casino.
  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tcd004 ( 134130 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:10AM (#4623628) Homepage
    Technology is always first developed for one of four things:

    1. The Military
    2. Sexual Urges
    3. Easy Money
    4. Security (making sure the above services are properly paid for)

    If we can't have sex with it, blow it up, or make loads of cash off of it, we're just not interested.

    Visit Richard Gere's Ass Zoo []

    • by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      If we can't have sex with it, blow it up, or make loads of cash off of it, we're just not interested.

      Inflatable dolls you can rent to your friends must be the most popular item ever them. :)
    • "If we can't have sex with it, blow it up, or make loads of cash off of it, we're just not interested."

      Can I interest you in Trisha the inflatable life-like woman ? If you rent her out then she fulfills all three of your criteria...


    • There are a few exceptions. Adobe Acrobat is a good example. For seven years it was developed without turning a profit. PDF was originally developed as an alternative to PostScript for managing documents through printing workflows, but the Internet finally gave it a widespread purpose. Suddenly all of its strengths, such as embedding fonts to portray documents accurately across systems and platforms, became useful to a large audience. I don't really understand why John Warnock, then CEO, supported Acrobat even while PostScript (another Adobe technology) was still adored, and neither did most management. But now, after version 5.0, it's Adobe's most promising product, bringing in revenues head-to-head with Photoshop.
    • If we can't have sex with it, blow it up, or make loads of cash off of it, we're just not interested.

      Sounds like canine philosophy: "If I can't eat it, fuck it or piss on it, I'm just not interested."
    • 5. Games/entertainment (how could you miss this?)
      6. Chatting/Communication
    • yup, I agree. Selling tourist packages of wild space sex. Or the tourist package for the first couple to have sex on Mars will be huge.

    • 1. The Military
      2. Sexual Urges
      3. Easy Money
      4. Security (making sure the above services are properly paid for)

      5. Profit!
    • Please, noone accuse me of oversimplification just for karma points. Even if it is true.

  • by updog ( 608318 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:11AM (#4623635) Homepage
    Interesting article about the technology used to watch and catch potential thieves of the casinos... but how closely are the gaming comissions watching the casinos to ensure we're not getting ripped off? With the millions of dollars passing through, the old "fraction of a penny" trick seems like it's a possibility, unless the casinos are watched very closely...
    • The entire point of casinos is that they rip you off. It's not a "fraction of a penny" trick, more of a "fraction of a dollar" trick. On average, for every dollar you spend in a casino, you get 100 cents back. Now, if the slot machines were rigged to never give out any money, that'd be bad, but a fractional-cent scheme on a machine that's already grabbing a sizable percentage of the money you put into it would be silly.
      • Perhaps you meant something other than 100 cents, because that would be break even (100% payback). The "loosest" casinos have probably at most a 98% payback.
        • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:24AM (#4623824) Homepage
          I seem to recall reading somewhere that for craps and blackjack, the house takes are the lowest (around 2%). In other words, they only expect to keep 2% of what is gambled there.

          This does not mean that if you have $100, you will walk away with $98, especially if you insist on betting all $100 on one throw. What it means is that over a statistically significant period of time, your wins and losses combined will relieve you (and everyone else participating in that game) of about 2% of your cash.

          However, the house _always_ wins in the end. In most Las Vegas casinos, you can get free drinks while gambling, which affects your judgement, makes you more likely to increase the size of your wager, etc.

          Also, on those low "house take" games, the payouts tend to be smaller. Sure, on roulette, you can win 35 times what you bet if the ball lands on your number. But it has a 1:36 chance of doing so. You can bet on black and get a 2:1 payout, but there is slightly less then a 1:2 chance that it will land on black.

          Gambling casinos are designed to take money out of your pocket and put it into the casino's pocket. Never forget that. Don't go there with the idea of breaking the bank.

          However, if you have a $100 or $200, or the room gives you free chips to play with, and that's all you plan on using, have fun. If you come out ahead, great. If you lose those room chips, don't worry, you haven't dipped into your money yet. Just keep a level head on you, and you can have fun in Las Vegas.

          • Yeah, craps and blackjack are generally the best games to play. Play blackjack "right" to get the 2%.

            The _only_ true odds bet in the entire casino is the "odds" bet in craps. Play that bet as much as you can. Learn craps if you don't know what I'm talking about. :)

            Slots run 85%-95%, keno is at the limit at 75%.

            You know those little machines which have a bunch of quarters that all look like they're going to be pushed over the edge at any minute, if you'd just put _one_ more coin in? Those are the worst in the whole place. In fact, they had to get special permission to get around the fact that state law says that all games must pay at least 75%, because these pay out about 40-50%.
          • This does not mean that if you have $100, you will walk away with $98, especially if you insist on betting all $100 on one throw. What it means is that over a statistically significant period of time, your wins and losses combined will relieve you (and everyone else participating in that game) of about 2% of your cash.

            I think you've explained that badly, it sounds like your saying that if you have $100 and play blackjack you can expect, on average, to walk away with $98. The 2% take refers to the total amount betted not the your initial bankroll. So, if you always bet $2 you can expect to be $2 down after 50 games, and to have lost all your $100 after 2500 games.

            That's an oversimplification on my part but basically the lower the house take the longer it takes for you to lose all your money. You still lose it all in the end. As you say though, with the right perspective you can lose your money and have fun. You're paying for taking part in the game and using the facilities provided by the house.

          • IIRC in an investment study I did the casinos had a 40% take from gambling. Now I could have been wrong or had bad information. But no way are they operating those palaces on 2%. I would certainly like to hear from someone who knows. Here is Harrah's [] profile on yahoo. They have an overall operating margin of 17.5% which would be in line with 40% margin on gambling.
          • This does not mean that if you have $100, you will walk away with $98, especially if you insist on betting all $100 on one throw. What it means is that over a statistically significant period of time, your wins and losses combined will relieve you (and everyone else participating in that game) of about 2% of your cash.

            Actually, it means something else entriely. The amount you are expected to leave the table with is figured in as the drop, not the percentage here, which I believe is referred to as the "house edge." The house edge refers to the mathematical % that the house has on any one bet. For instance, even in a game with a 1% house advantage, if played for a long enough of a time, the house can be expected to take ALL of your money. The "drop" as it is referred to, basically factors in three things: (1)house edge as a percentage, (2) average size bet, (3) number of bets per hour, and (4) time.

            This is why, even though slot machines have house advantages similar to roulette, they tend to have a bigger drop. People play more bets per hour, and tend to stay at the machines for longer amounts of time.

          • You are correct that the house's take for blackjack is about 2%, but, and this is an important but, only if you play perfect basic strategy. If you sit there and wonder what to do every hand, you're going to lose more like 20-40% of the amount you wager. Also important to note is that even playing basic strategy, you will lose 1-2% of the amount you wager, not your bankroll. Huge difference! So you are correct that you will walk away with $98 on average, as long as you only go to Vegas for one hour (~20 hands), during the day (when there are $5 tables), and play perfect basic strategy! In other words, unless you're counting cards, go there for the fun of it and expect to lose!
          • 2% on blackjack ONLY if you play perfectly (e.g. according to the 'basic strategy' chart).

            You can do even better than 2% if you count cards, but if you start varying your wagers wildly towards the end of a shoe the pit boss'll will probably kick you out for 'expert play'...I've actually had a buddy banned for this.

          • This is wrong.

            A 2% disadvantage means that on every bet, you
            should expect to lose 2% of your money.

            That means over the long haul you don't walk
            away with 98% of your money, you walk away with
            0% (well, that's the limit, and given that you
            can't slice minimum bets, you hit that limit).

        • He just phrased it a little off.

          The way it works is for every $100 a customer deposits, SOMEONE walks away with $100. ie - you may walk away with $5, but someone who bet $5 may walk away with $105.

          FYI, it's closer to $.98 than $1.00, but it depends on the casino and jurisdiction.
    • The casinos are watched fairly closely, though not perhaps by the gaming commissions. Here is how I figure it. The commisions establish relatively fair laws, the casinos make money and people come away happy. Not only that there is the fairly famous gambler's ruin mathematical theory that shows that the gambler never can break even, it is always in the houses favor.

      Now, of course, the casinos might want to make even more money by cheating people. Here is why this wouldn't work on, most likely, a grand scale. Even if they managed to bribe a large contigent of inspectors ( a distinct possibility) what would happen, you suppose, if word of this got out? I mean, las vegas cheating people on a grand scale? You would have investigations upon investigations and it could ruin business in vegas. As I see casino operators are making money hand-over-fist right now, why attempt to ruin a good thing? Also, what happens if a rival casino operator finds out you are cheating? I'm sure a fair ammount of self-policing goes on to make sure one bad apple, so to speak, doesn't ruin it for the rest of Vegas. You think atlantic city and other places wouldn't jump on the chance to be the new 'fair city of gambling?'

      This is not to say they don't cheat - I'm sure it happens, but not on any grand scale. Lets face it, if you are going to vegas odds are you aren't going to come away with more money than you brought.
    • In the eighties, I worked for an arcade game company. One of their biggest sidelines were "Joker Poker" clone bar-top machines. (Strictly for amusement, no actual gambling, ha ha.)

      I remember running one on an emulator and freezing it frame by frame during the card-flip routine. For one frame it would show the winning card flipped, and then immediately adjusting it to lose depending on its payout stats.

      Arcade game operators tended to be incredibly greedy, and bar operators running illegal gambling machines were the worst of the lot. I assume that casino operators are more mellow and tightly regulated ..

      .. but there's no way I'd put my money in one of those things!

      As for home gambling, Game Cheaters vs Vegas should be an interesting match up. (Except if you get caught, they don't just cancel your account!)

    • Large casinos have no need to 'ripp off' their customers. Casinos tune their operations to collect exactly the winnings they want. If they want an extra fraction of a penny, they just adjust their odds a bit. Remember, that they will always pay out what they think is the right amount of money to keep the customers placing bets. This is why the big casinos typically pay out more than is mandated by law. Winning customers are good business and drive volume, which drives profit. Stealing fractions of a cent from people just doesn't have a purpose.
    • Casino's make %80 of their profit from slot machines and not dealer tables. Yes, this also includes the high rollers who blow up to amillion dollars per bet on blackjack!

      I live in Las Vegas and know this. The casino's make sure all the dealers play fair since this is pocket change compared to tightening slot machines. They also care about customer service and ratings. Slot players avoid many of the hotels with the tightest slot machines. These are mainly on the strip. If the dealers cheat the customer, they can be sued and lose reputation and repeat customers. Alot of traveling agencies look up such statistics when making travel arrangements and the casino's want there bussiness. They want you to be happy as well as getting rich off you. Its a mutual benefit.

      Remember that gambling is really for entertainment purposes only and not to get rich. If you think your going to hit it big do not gamble! I am serious. You will be burned. I lost $150 on my first day here. :-)

      What I like to do is go to the cheaper station casino's outside the strip in suburbia and play the penny machines. I put in a single 20 in their slot machines and play for about a half an hour. Sometimes I win ( station casino's have the loosest slots )and I only lose $20. Not a bad deal. Its all just for fun.

      You can trust the casino's in not ripping you off. Just remember to trust yourself and be very, very cautious about the slot machines. Head off to Fiesta, Suncoast, or Texas stations if you ever want to visit Vegas for the highest odds. The Suncoast and Texas casino's even have rooms but you will need to rent a car and drive half an hour to the strip. If your on a budget this is the way to go.

  • by LucidBeast ( 601749 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:14AM (#4623641)
    Since smut vendors seem to be the most thriving content providers on the internet (at least compared to Hollywood) it is logical that gambling establishment will be the security providers. Our triumphs come from our vices not our virtues.
  • all about odds (Score:1, Insightful)

    by painehope ( 580569 )
    Kathleen Budz grins and bears big winnings that only a Net-generation slot machine like the IGT units (bottom) can pay out.
    okay, here's the cynics take on it :
    you're playing against 40,000 people for 4 million rather than 1,000 for 100k. Your odds aren't getting any better, they're actually getting worse ( on winning anything worth a shit ). and if anyone really thinks that the odds stay the same on a nationwide network, well, i invented this mirable cream that will MAKE YOUR COCK GROW FIVE INCHES and AM REALLY INTERESTED IN SHARING MY SECRETS TO SUCCESS!!!

    gambling and the lottery are for people that are bad at math...i'm talking worse than i am :)
    • Re:all about odds (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      you're playing against 40,000 people for 4 million rather than 1,000 for 100k. Your odds aren't getting any better, they're actually getting worse ( on winning anything worth a shit ).

      You're mistaken. You are playing against the odds for one million rather than for 100K. Yes, the odds are stacked higher against you (read the articel again), but nothing any other person does can affect your individual odds of winning. Now, if you were talking about, say, blackjack, where every move a person at your table makes affects you, then you would have a point. But not with slots.
    • lottery are for people that are bad at math

      Ah, the lottery. Taxing the mathematically inept.

      • Actually, if you only play the lottery when the expected value of your ticket is greater than the cost of the ticket, you're coming out ahead. The variance is ridiculous, but the EV is still there.

        With the California Lotto, the jackpot has to be greater than about $82MM if you discount the increased probability of a split jackpot because of increased participation. It seems to happen about 7 or 8 times a year.
        • Yeah but it acutally has to be above about $140 million (Powerball) by the time you pay taxes depending on your tax bracket, and how tax effective you will be with the money once you win. Then you have to weigh the odds of another player getting the same number as you, which is more likely once you get above 80 million since so many more people start playing. Personally I start in the mid 100 range, and keep playing untill a winner happens, if I remember to buy the tickets.
          Interestingly enough the Powerball noticed that their revenues went up significantly once they increased the odds from about 30 million to 1 to about 80 million to 1 and they started getting all the mega jackpots.
  • Yeah right, and (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <> on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:21AM (#4623667) Journal
    the para-mutual betting system is secure too. This is a load of SHIT, considering the Paramutual betting system for horse racing was just cracked for 3 million, at the breeders cup. I'd say it will be some time before this is common, or the casinos will just have to eat the losses, and there will be FOR SURE...How will the go after say some guy in China that hacks the system ?
    • Re:Yeah right, and (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:18AM (#4623812) Journal
      The racetrack heist was an inside job by a guy with the password to the database. That sort of security problem will be with us until we get the human factor completely out of the system from conception to implementation to validation.

      And then there will be no need for money, because the human slaves of the master machines don't have time off to shop.
      • LOL, sort of a grim view :)
        Most hacks involve some degree of inside knowledge, and the bigger the system it gets the more likely to be compromised. It is just a matter of time before someone hijacks a dns server and redirects a load of money their way, sort of like a virtual fake atm scam :)
        The paypal fakers were sort of like that.
      • "I used to think I was chasing the real criminals," says Lt. Steve Franks, a 29-year veteran of the LVPD, who spent the early days of his career pursuing drug dealers and now runs the town's financial crimes unit. But "these guys," he says of the casino crooks, "are calculating. They plot everything out. They're efficient."

        None more so than Ronald Dale Harris, whose job as a software engineer for the state Gaming Control Board was to write slot machine anti-cheating software. Harris surreptitiously coded a hidden software switch--tripped by inserting coins in a predetermined sequence--that would trigger cash jackpots. After retooling more than 30 machines, Harris and accomplices made the rounds, walking away with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Harris was caught when one of his confederates implicated him after being busted in Atlantic City for rigging a Keno game. In 1998, Harris was sentenced to seven years."

        • The Harris case can not happen any more.

          Every gambling jurisdiction has adopted independent test and review guidelines similar to those used by the FAA to ensure that software used in gaming devices is reliable and free of hacks. Yes it makes the software a couple of hundred percent more expensive, but in that business capital expenses are never an issue.
  • I personally think that Vegas making sure they have the best of tech to keep "plotters" away is definately a good call. []

  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by acehole ( 174372 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:33AM (#4623708) Homepage
    What are the odds of it working?

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:37AM (#4623715) Journal
    Everywhere you go -- from Walmart, to Disneyland, to stadiums, to McDonalds, even to some carwashes -- everything is monitored and networked.

    All cash registers in almost every supermarket, as well as any store (blockbuster, petsmart, etc) that cards you, is tracking everything you do through a network, and is usually accompanied by an impressive array of security cameras to boot.

    It's not just risky gambling operations run by the mob -- it's your friendly neighborhood megastore that implements all the technology, too.
    • Gambling and the mob (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dusabre ( 176445 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:59AM (#4623885) Homepage
      Big gambling is run by big listed corporations and guys called Steve and Lee, not Tony and Vitti.

      There are very few mob owned casinos left. There might be some vestigal ties (through debt-collection, prostitution, etc) with the majority but the influence of organised crime (violent, inefficient) has been replaced by the influence of the organised market ('family orientated', efficient).
      • Big gambling is run by big listed corporations and guys called Steve and Lee, not Tony and Vitti.

        Is that true, or is it just because you watched Casino, that Robert DeNero flick? ;-) I'm always skeptical when I hear somebody mention something that came from a film; 9 times out of 10, the film bears no resemblence to reality, yet it is written into our subconcience to perceive it as fact.

        Not a flame, I'm just curious on the truth behind this, always have been since I saw that flick.

        • Bear in mind that it was the "Tony and Vitti" crowd that built Las Vegas (Gangster Bugsy Siegel and his Flamingo, to be exact). Vegas sort of clings to the bad boy image, with bullnecked pit bosses and quasi-shady wiseguy-types roaming the floor.

          An excellent book about the wavering mob influence and increasing corporate mentatlity is "Temples of chance" [] by David Johnston.
    • ... and people call me paranoid for preferring cash.

      I just argue that I don't want to be helping the people who do these things one bit more than I absolutely have to.

  • [ot]I saw an episode of Nova quite a while ago where they profiled a computer sysem that was capable of designing and building a body for itself, given certain goals of the body, and access to a machine that would create the body from plastic [/ot]

    Would it be possible to create a system capable of designing and implementing a gambling system more secure than curent systems? As pointed out in the article, an employee of the slot machine manufacturer altered machines for payout.. this wouldnt happen if a secure computer system were to design the slot machine, in the vein of the aforementioned computer system capable of building itself a body. The computer designed slot machine would be able to design in booby traps to prevent tampering, and design in maintenance systems to maintain the system. I realize that this would be prohibitively expensive, but ultimately, wouldnt that be the only way to have a truly secure slot/gambling machine??

    Just my $.02
  • by Le Marteau ( 206396 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:54AM (#4623756) Journal
    The article says "No single slot could pay out $4 million. Not physically, and not practically. Even in constant use, it would be impossible for any single machine to collect sufficient incoming wagers to make such mammoth paydays happen."

    That's incorrect. A slot machine does not have to collect $4 million to have a potential payout of $4 million. A slot machine could be set to pay out huge sums for extremely unlikely combinations, combinations so unlikely that the machine would most likely NEVER pay it out during its X years in service. The network deal is compelling only because it allows pools, not because it makes huge payouts possible.

  • Net Vegas? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Krux ( 8331 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @03:56AM (#4623760) Homepage
    What? Las Vegas has to be about one of the most technologically backwards cities in the US. A very poor tech market indeed, and as a special bonus, low pay. One of my network engineer friends out here recently had to move to Arkansa because THEY had more of a tech field than Las Vegas.

    Take it from a resident.. Las Vegas != Technology.
    • Ah yes, Seattle sucks too. "It rains all the time!" And stay away from Silicon Valley, "there's no nightlife!"

      If I were in college, or looking to immigrate, I'd just stay away from the tech industry in general. There are much better opportunities outside of the field I'm in, especially where I live. </sarcasm>
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Did it occur to you that your friend couldn't find a job there because he's an idiot?

    • This is very true. I know or am acquainted with (FOAF) most of the programmers here, and you're talking about the Yucca mountain project, a few government jobs, some subcontracting, and a handful of brick and mortars.
      That's it.
      All the startups (what there was of them) flamed out very rapidly.
  • by denisonbigred ( 611860 ) <nbn2@cornel[ ]du ['l.e' in gap]> on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:05AM (#4623785)
    Here's [] an interesting article from a month or two back in wired. True story about some kids from MIT breaking Vegas.
    • The MIT Blackjack team cracked Vegas the legal way. What they did wasn't illegal, but they had to jump through hoops such as costumes and makeup to keep the casinos from kicking them out.

      A good book on the team can be found here [].

  • by ChicoLance ( 318143 ) <> on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:08AM (#4623795)
    I used to be work on the communications software for slot machine, and although every machine in the building is wired together via fiber optic cable (fiber optics aren't as suseptable to a lot of the noise generated in the casino, such as neon, among other reasons), it's important to realized that there isn't a whole lot data on the line that's really a security risk.

    Every machine has generates it's own random numbers and determines if it hits the jackpot by itself. The methods to do that are faily secure, but since there are a lot of variable to pick from, such as the number of milliseconds between user buttonpresses, randomness is not much of a problem. The command to win the jackpot does not come over the network.

    All that's really on the network are things like coins in/coins out, number of plays, and a lot of accounting data. This data goes to the casino for their own accounting, and also goes into a box which then computes how much to increment the progressive jackpot. If an individual machine says "I won the big one!", then everything is shut down, the individual machine is checked to make sure the software hasn't been tampered or any other security measure broken, then the winner is paid (sort of). The command "to win" doesn't come from the network, so security is not a problem from the network.

    On some lottery setup, an administrator can send a command to shut a particular machine down, but on the whole, the machines are pretty autonomous. Casinos are considered pretty secure environments anyway.

    I always thought this was pretty interesting when I've explained it to others, so I thought I'd repeat it here.
    • With mystery jackpots, wins are sent to slot machines by the central monitoring system. These systems use encryption when transmiting data. It is pretty secure, but like all things in the real world, an insider (network operator or engineer who designed system) can interfere with the system. Then again, how valuable are ones kneecaps and fingers?
      • Uh, no. Not in any of the systems I'm familiar with.

        Who would write such a system anyway. That'd be a system just begging to be hacked.

        Each machine on the network has the odds to win a particular payline already set in the machine paytables. Say, 1 in 100 million for the big prize, as a simple case.

        Each machine sends a command to a little box located in each bank of machines, that "Somebody just paid $3". A fraction of that goes towards the local progressive jackpot, or if it's a wide-area progressive (i.e. Megabucks), it will sync with the central server from time to time. The box may send back the current value of the progressive jackpot, allowing the individual machine to display it somewhere on the machine itself, but it's simply informative. The protocols really aren't that complicated since most were originally created when machines used 8051 microcontrollers.

        Now, with statistics at work, only one of the machines will hit the jackpot every so often. The wide-area progressive allow more machines to contribute to a central jackpot, and the jackpot is bigger. If a machine does it, it tells the system "I won the big one.", the progressive counter stops, techs make sure the CRC's on the program and paytable are right and that nothing else is screwed up, then the jackpot is reset. Depending on the system and where it's at, there may or may not be encryption on the communication channel, and since there _isn't_ a command to tell it to win, it really doesn't matter.

        I can sit and describe short vs. long term statistics until I'm blue in the face and describe how everything works in minute detail, but there's a certain segment of the population that won't belive me no matter what I say. Oh well.
  • by ChicoLance ( 318143 ) <> on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:18AM (#4623813)
    A technology I always thought was interesting at the Casinos was the whole "Player Tracking" aspect. The marketing people just drool to know what and when individuals are playing.

    Just like the grocery "club cards", a player can sit down at a machine, put in their tracking card, and play away in the hopes of getting credits towards a hotel room or something. In the back room, some guy is looking over the reports, and sees that you tend to come in on Friday nights, play for a little while, have dinner, then bet a little bit more for a couple of hours. You stay an average of 20 minutes per machine, tend to gravitate towards the red machines, but stay longer at blue ones, and that you like to play "Double Diamond". The waitress can view a summary screen near the drink station and see a list of everybody in her area, have it highlighed in red if you're a top player, highlighted in green if it's your birthday, and if it's both, well, you'll get a nice bottle of champaine delivered to you without even asking.

    The whole "science" of which colors attract which people for how long, which seats are the best, and which layouts work is a fascinating subject, but really only studied by a select few.
  • by ChicoLance ( 318143 ) <> on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:32AM (#4623841)
    Last comment on this thread, then I'm going to bed.

    To the people who have asked "who's watching the gaming commission?", all I can say is that slot machines use lots of variables to make sure that everything is random on the machine, and everything is on the up-and-up. With casinos and manufacturer being corporate controlled entities these days, it doesn't make since to screw around with this -- the house is already making a nice profit, so why run the risk of a lawsuit.

    And if there was something fishy in the software, there'd be a lot more rich ex-software engineers running around. I'm proof that there isn't. :)
  • Lot more to this... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @04:44AM (#4623858)
    There is so much more to this than just networking some casion cameras, etc.

    The taxi companies have been paying telco insiders for taps into payphones, as an example. This lets them intercept customer calls, and swoop down before the competition can land the fare.

    You have to go there and hang out for a while before you can really appreciate the amount of technology involved and how it's being used. The types of games being played behind the scene dwarf the action at the tables. Boggles the imagination, actually.... Not sure I want this stuff coming home with me.
  • by ChicoLance ( 318143 ) <> on Friday November 08, 2002 @05:02AM (#4623889)
    Ever wonder why you haven't seen credit cards on a slot machine?

    Besides it screaming to be a bad idea because you know people would abuse it, but that normally doesn't stop the marketing people.

    No, the main problem is that you're only liable for $50 on your credit card if the card is lost. What's to stop somebody from running up $2000 on a machine, then claiming to "lose" the card. They'd be personally liable for only $50, and the casino would have a chargeback for the rest. Not a good business plan.

    There was a pilot program a while back (there might be others now), that used an ATM like card where you can put money on a card, then withdraw it at the individual machines. It was scary to look at the reports and see some guy at a machine withdraw $10k from his card, then 20 minutes later, withdraw another $10k, over and over again.

    • This keeps the economy kind of healthy; Take the money away from the idiots and give it to those smart enough to exploit the aforementioned idiots. Then let them get ripped of by someone smarter, etc.

    • What's to stop somebody from running up $2000 on a machine, then claiming to "lose" the card. They'd be personally liable for only $50, and the casino would have a chargeback for the rest.

      With the sheer amount of security cameras available, I don't think a casino would have any problem identifying the user of the card in court. I would be more worried about the smarter thief who steals a credit card, wins a couple grand, cashes out, ditches the card, and then bolts. If the casino subtracts the original charge from the winnings and it never actually hits the credit card (avoiding the charge fees, saving the casino money), nobody is the wiser.

      I've seen the people who abuse their ATM and credit cards gambling. Last year, I watched a guy use an ATM on a casino boat just out of Florida waters. The ATM fee was $40 and he must have hit the machine at least 10 times, never pulling out more than $200.

      I don't think the gambling helps these people, but I'm pretty sure these are the same people who don't understand the fundamental concepts behind credit systems. I could just as easily see them buying items they can't afford, then rolling over thousands of dollars in balances each month.
  • To what extent are these machines controlled ? This give rise to lotsa alarming thoughts. They can then program the whole system. They want p% profit. Hence only $x should be lost by the casino .... can they manipulate the machines ? This is a scary scenario.. you're at the mercy of the casino... totally.
  • slots underbelly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @08:59AM (#4624370) Journal
    In Vegas a couple of years ago, there was a whole row of slots in repair. They tip the row over on its side, showing the mounting plate and everything underneath. Very clearly you could see the RJ45 jacks in the floor and what looked like regular Cat5 going from the jack to up inside the machine somewhere. There were outlets of course, and other cables, similar to large computer/mainframe setup where the cable trays are underneath. My thought was, if they are on a traditional network, then the guys at the other end can control just about anything on that slot.

    Same trip, different casino, hubby and I walked up to a $1 progressive slot, and he started hitting 100 and 250 each pull. (it was near the back of a casino and we were the only ones there, it was also at 8mil, which is around when they hit) After about 4 hits, these men in suits with earpieces showed up. 2 right behind us, and 2 on the other side of the slots. They kept talking into their lapels (I kid you not!) like some sort of spy movie. I watched one guy look over hubby's shoulder, give a look to the other guy, talk to the lapel, and then we started losing. After a couple of pulls and losing, they walked away. I really don't think it was coincidence.
    • What is strange about this story is that such a thing is not supposed to be legally possible in Nevada - if such a thing occurred, it would seem to indicate that the machines are not truely random, and can actually be "adjusted" remotely.

      Now, perhaps they were doing maintenance on those machines, and had stuck them in a predictive mode, the techs notice it, ask the security to go over and check it, they tell the techs "yeah, people are playing - stick it back in random mode" - and then you started losing. They didn't make a fuss because you could claim innocence and get the money anyhow (and perhaps more via a court - plus they would get bad press) - and so let you keep whatever winnings you had.

      Now, this would indicate something interesting - go to the casinos, look for banks of empty machines (big banks of empties) and play them, and see if you win because they are "down" for maintenance - when the goons come by, lose a couple rounds, then leave - go to another casino. I can't see how they could consider that a "scam" - if they had a problem with it, surely they could unplug the machines or chain them off, or put a "under maintenance" graphic on the boxes. If not, you could claim innocence/ignorance. It also opens up the interesting possibility of "hacking" the network to open up the machines for big payouts - but if it hasn't happened in 10+ years of DefCons in Vegas, it is unlikely to ever happen - but it is fun to think about it...

  • by Deton8 ( 522248 ) on Friday November 08, 2002 @09:12AM (#4624416)
    The latest gizmo at the casinos is recording the video directly to arrays of ATA hard drives. Not only does this save a lot of labor, but also the security team can review recorded video without pausing the recording in process, kinda like TiVo. With 250GB ATA drives costing less than $300, you are going to see a lot more tape applications being replaced by hard drives. In the case of the casinos, they keep one or two tape units handy for saving evidence, but basically there is a definite trend to elimitate the old fashioned VCR.
  • This was somewhat of a scandal sometime ago. Apparently a woman won a jackpot on a slot, lights flashed etc etc etc and she got a pile of credits. Just before she left, she decided to stick another quarter in, and won a second time!

    The lottery corp refused to pay her out though (I think possibly only for the second win, not the first), as they second the (second?) win was a glitch, and didn't wasn't registered from the main computer - indicated by the lack of flashy lights the second time around.

    All the machines have disclaimers saying that they are not obligated to pay for winnings due to a technical error. My question is, how do you tell? It would be pretty easy for them to say "oops, sorry no that machine is faulty, you only get $10 instead of $10000."

    I think she eventually got her money in the end, but only because it went to the paper and created a lot of bad publicity for the local casinos. The big point is though, that the winning is not entirely on-the-spot chance/luck, but actually seems to be based on something coming from a main server. Whether there's a randomizing alghorithm or whatever,it seems pretty suspicious to me, as it probably means that your winnings are based more on getting lucky and catching a server during it's "win" calculation than actual random luck - they can probably adjust win thresholds etc from the home base.
    No wonder they profit on slots...
  • Of a Janeane Garofalo SNL skit for the Nut-arific candy bar...

    It's nut-very good.

    Wait, that doesn't sound right, how about...

    You're nut-gonna love it!

    No, that's not right either...
  • where if a lousy M$ OS crashes in a big hotel, say like Circus-Circus, they are totally unable to function. They actually told us we could not check out, and seemed puzzled when I started laughing. On a Wedesday morning they had a checkin line almost 200 people long and could not even begin to operate. We just walked out, and told the foolish desk clerk to bill us if they could ever figure out how. It took several days but the bill finally did arrive, and I even payed it, though there was no signature. Why is it that the more automated a system becomes the more ignorant the people running it are ?

    DMV anyone ?
  • almost all of the tech companies here in Vegas are cutting back, adn even if you can get a job, you're typically paid much less than if you were to get one anywhere else.

    (Yes, I do live in Vegas)
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday November 09, 2002 @01:29AM (#4630924) Journal
    I currently live in Las Vegas and believe they have been all networked for quite some time.

    When a customer wins the jackpot and I mean "thee jackpot" in terms of thousands of dollars the slot machine needs to alert an attendant about the winnings and send the log to a server. Slot machines only have a limited sum of money. Also the server wants to check the logs on the slot machine to make sure that the results are really mathmatically accurate on the so called tightness of the machine.

    Slot machines can be adjusted to give users less or more odds. The Las Vegas Hilton or Stratesphere typically have the tightest machines in the city where as the local oriented station casino's in suburbia have the loosest. If the bar on the slot machine is between a jackpot and a cherry for example, at the Hilton the machine will pick the cherry so the consumer will lose. At a station casino it will select the jackpot.

    Its all controlled by the computer.

    Another area is security and video taping. When a customer wins alot of money from a slot machine or from a blackjack table, the manager will select a camera that faces the particular machine and will watch a video log in fast motion to make sure the user did not cheat.

    Also a casino like Ceasars have 30 or 40 satilite dishes so gamblers can watch sports events from around the world as well as serve high rollers who want to watch television from home. Alot of expensive telecommunications are installed.

    Last casino's hire mathmaticians and statisticians and use powerfull computers for running various mathmatical bussiness models. Everything including hotel room size to even the amount of booze being used to make a particular drink in the bar is mathmatically researched and formulated for maximum profit. For example you could not stay at the penthouse or villa in the casino's no matter how much money you wanted to pay. They are reserved for popular or consumers who have big checking accounts. Basically they are free even if you have the cash! Why? Because the casino's want high rollers who they know will spend a quarter million a bet!

    You did not misread this a quarter to 1 million dollars for a single bet!

    If you could only pay 25k per bet, they put you in the next to highest room.

    This is all based on mathmatics and how much ROI they get back for each guest staying at the penthouse or villa.

I've got a bad feeling about this.