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Casino tends player was "hacking" by pressing a clever combination of buttons

In 2009, Las Vegas local John Kane scored the dream of many gamblers, winning five large jackpots on slot machines in an hour worth around $8,200 USD a piece at the Silverton Casino Lodge.  Now he's in danger of going to federal prison -- all for pressing buttons on a slot machine in a fashion he figured out would exploit a flaw in the machine's logic.

The case against Mr. Kane and co-defendant Andre Nestor (who helped Mr. Kane figure out the exploit) is being heard in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada by Federal Judge Miranda Du.  Prosecutors, backed by Silverton Casino and the slot machine manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT), are looking to not only deny the man his jackpot, but also charge him and his friend for violating the ambiguously worded Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (18 USC § 1030).  

Sentences for various for-profit "hacking" violations carry sentences of up to five years under the act, as Goatse Sec. hacker Andrew "weev" Auernheimer painfully found out.

Silverton Casino

Andrew Leavitt, a veteran LV lawyer representing Mr. Kane, calls the accusation ridiculous, saying his client was playing by the rules of the machine and was not responsible for the manufacturer's programming errors.  He tells Wired in an interview, "I’m not exaggerating or embellishing. … In one year he played 12 million dollars worth of video poker.  It’s an addiction.  He accidentally hit a button too soon, and presto.  It was a fluke. There was no research… Just playing."

He admits that his client, along with Mr. Nestor (who played primarily in Penn. casinos) then exploited the bug at the Fremont, the Golden Nugget, the Orleans, the Texas Station, Harrah’s, the Rio, the Wynn, and the Silverton, but contends he did not "hack" and did nothing wrong.

Game King
The pair used their trick on the Game King multi-game machine. [Image Source: IGT]

Even Las Vegas' Gaming Control Board chief inspector Jim Barbaree calls the exploit an "extreme rarity", saying most "cheaters" use mechanical tricks or other physical attacks like shocking the machine to try to earn illicit playouts.  By contrast Mr. Kane was playing the game, but had found an error of the game within its rules.

Mr. Nestor commented on the charges previously, "I’m being arrested federally for winning on a slot machine.  It’s just like if someone taught you how to count cards, which we all know is not illegal. You know. Someone told me that there are machines that had programming that gave a player an advantage over the house. And that’s all there is to it.…  Who would not win as much money as they could on a machine that says, ‘Jackpot’? That’s the whole idea!"

Andre Nestor
Andre Nestor faces years in prison for winning a slot machine. [Image Source: Wired]

The key to the case is an ambiguous phrase "exceeds authorized access".  That catch all phrase is used by companies to try to send whoever they dislike to prison by accusing the target of using their machine/software in a way they didn't approve of.  In some cases such "violations" have resulted in prison time, in others the suspects have been found innocent.

The CFAA is under reform, after RSS-coauthor and internet activist Aaron Schwartz committed suicide, with questionable CFAA charges thought to be partially to blame.  Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) have sponsored a bill called "Aaron's Law", however it has yet to pass and be signed into law.

Sources: U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada via Wired [PDF], Wired



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

The only winning move...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 5/2/2013 12:16:13 PM , Rating: 5
is not to play?




RE: The only winning move...
By Spookster on 5/2/2013 12:53:18 PM , Rating: 5
How about a nice game of chess?


RE: The only winning move...
By RjBass on 5/2/2013 5:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
Give this one a 6!!!! ^^^


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