Russia's slot-machine bans let criminals buy machines on the cheap and reverse-engineer them

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One might wonder this, though: Why is it even illegal to try to predict the best strategy for pulling the lever? These people are not breaking into the machine nor are they manipulating it, they’re just analyzing how it works to optimize their own predictions on how to win.

It’s merely a technology-enhanced version of what all patrons would like to do - understand how best to win. In other words, to me the answer shouldn’t be convictions for what obviously shouldn’t be a crime, but improved slot machine algorithms.


However, slot machine operators have no countermeasures – apart from
surveillance and arrests – to keep their machines from being gamed this

Well, and apart from a software patch.

These machines are a pretty far distance from Michael Larson on Press Your Luck:


Won’t someone please think of the casinos!

An election was one thing, but now they’ve gone too far!


Interesting story. And one that has me almost sympathising with the Russian Mafia.

Because anyone who finds a way to turn the tables on those devices is doing good work.
Those things are specifically designed to be as compelling as possible while they take every last bit of credit that the gambler has- providing compulsion wrapped up in the illusion of choice and autonomy. They bring to bear years worth of human-machine interaction design, countless rounds of A/B testing and our full knowledge of people’s psychological flaws and biases- all to make the most efficient funnel of cash from the player to the operator. Some of the more advanced models seamlessly integrate ATM functionality into them, in order to stop anything getting in the way of more spins, and more losses for the gambler.

And if the process used was as described, it’s difficult to see how it is any different from card counting- The player constantly calculates their odds, and only places a bet when the odds are in their favour. Card counting is absolutely not illegal, but will get you asked to leave, because it breaks the only real rule in the gambling industry- nobody is supposed to beat the house over the long run.

And as a technical aside, there is an easy fix to this sort of attack- never mind encryption of the data, that’s really just security by obscurity. The way to get around “timing” spins on machine like this is simply to have the RNG cycle through the possibilities so fast, that it becomes impossible for human reaction times to land on a winning combination. Of course, doing that requires re-designing the chip in each machine, and physically upgrading each one.

Of course, that leaves an intriguing possibility that the article didn’t cover. What if the machines that they’re hitting are that previously went through Russia. With a glut of machines needing to be sold off after the 2009 ban, it’s not inconceivable that some of these machines were (ahem) upgraded before being sold on to casinos throughout the world. Then, all you need to do is find where the cracked machines are, before cashing out at them.


That’s fine. It’s understanding the machines that’s a crime.


This is actually not new, there was a guy in the 60’s who found a mechanical flaw in one of the machines (he had apparently been a licensed repairman for slot machines), and simply by timing the release of the handle cleared out several machines before Vegas got hip to him. I’d have to do a little research, but I recall reading the story in one of John Scarne’s books.

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I’ve been trying, and trying, and trying. But nope, I cannot find it in my heart to feel sorry for casino operators. Just can’t.

On the ethical scale here, the Russian Mafia kind of come out like the good guys, since they are stealing from other thieves (drug dealers really). Kinda like the Saint, really.


They casino owners would have an incentive to fix this if they weren’t allowed to use police to intimate or punish people who figure out how to beat them at their own game.

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Hi. I work on slot machines. I don’t feel that this situation applies to the larger slot manufacturers like Bally, WMS, Aristocrat, IGT, Konomi, etc…
In class II gaming, there is a central server that basically is playing “bingo” with all the terminals on the floor. in that situation there is 2 RNG’s(random number generators) in play
In class III gaming (Vegas style), The RNG is on each machine.
In my jurisdiction, class III games outcome can not be changed by anyone.
when people think they are “stopping” the wheels, they are just betting faster.
once the bet is placed the outcome is already determined.
Some people also believe that there is a way to predict outcome by prior outcomes.
In reality the game is always running RNG outcomes even when not being played.
When the RNG has outcomes that can’t be observed then it approaches truer randomness.
Before anyone asks for tips I will give the only one I can legally give.
Bet big or go home. When one can’t bet big, it is best to go home.

edited typo “can” into “can’t”

‘The FBI have arrested some of the alleged operators, at least one of whom is said to be turning state’s evidence, and thus providing the means to unravel the scam.’

You know, if I were running this kind of enterprise which I’m not I would really like to get someone to send me immediate notification if one of my employees was arrested.


Well, funny thing, but the casinos have put themselves in charge of the rules and they have made it illegal to win too much. That’s their job.

Honestly, anything that makes the life of casino-owners miserable is a good thing in my book. Well done ruthless Russian gangster-types.

…now there are words I’d never expected to write.


“Maybe you should stay away from the Lucky Horseshoe from now on. I’d hate for Officer Mungo to have to… intimate you”

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To me “mafia” conjures up images of all kinds of other criminal behavior from extortion to human trafficking. Casinos seem to represent a more upstanding criminality involving fraud, victimizing addicts, and lobbying.

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