In 2014, a man walked into a Casino in St. Louis and hacked into several Lumiere slot machines. It was unprecedented at the time and took security some time to figure out what he was doing. What was eventually found out, however, was a complicated system that hailed from Russia.
After the accountants at Lumiere Place Casino noticed that several of its slot machines were going haywire, it was essentially spitting out more money than they had consumed despite not giving a jackpot. Wired has noted that this was strange because the government-approved software that powered the machines were already fixed. The slot machines generally had a fixed income for every dollar that was spent on it.
Looking through security cameras, it was determined that the unusual activities were from the plays of Murat Bliev, a 37-year-old Russian national. He never tinkered with the actual Lumiere slot machines, but Bliev did have one unusual routine. While playing the machines, which meant pushing its buttons and such, he would also be holding his iPhone close to the screen. He would play for a few minutes, disappear and then return after a few minutes to seemingly give the game a second chance.
His second run was when he would get lucky. Bliev would invest about US$20 to US$60, and his returns would reach as much as US$1,300. Security was also suspect because the man would hover his finger above the Spin button before hurriedly pushing it. Lumiere Palace eventually shared its findings with the Missouri Gaming Commission, to which other casinos admitted they had experienced the same thing.
How Did It Happen?
It was later determined that the hacking derived from extreme observance. “Through targeted and prolonged observation of the individual game sequences as well as possibly recording individual games, it might be possible to allegedly identify a kind of ‘pattern’ in the game results,” Lumiere Place admitted in a statement.
In further investigations, it was made clear that the operative used their phones to record up to two dozen spins on a game that they had chosen to cheat. The footage would then be shared with its technical staff back in St. Petersburg. That team then analyzed the video and calculated the machine’s pattern. It would then send back timing markers to the individual on the floor.
What Have Casinos Done?
However, because the operation does not actually touch the machines, there is nothing for casinos to fix. Instead, they are left with human intelligence to determine whether or not they are being cheated. Sometimes the only indication that security personnel will be provided is a lingering finger or a misplaced recording device.