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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

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By Motoman on 5/2/2013 12:18:36 PM , Rating: 5
...the guy was just pushing buttons on the front of the machine like you're supposed to do.

That's not hacking. Whether or not he had any reason to expect that pushing the buttons in a certain way would exploit anything. He's using the intended public user interface in the normal manner. He didn't bypass the interface, or inject any code, or...anything. He was pushing the buttons on the front of the machine.

Not hacking. Not criminal. GTFO.

RE: Nope
By JasonMick on 5/2/2013 12:40:39 PM , Rating: 5
Not hacking. Not criminal. GTFO.


Welcome to America, aka the police state, where politicians are put in office with billions in special interest dollars. Here in the "land of the free" it costs $8.3M USD to win a Senate race and $1.4M to win a House race. The presidential race costs close $1B USD between the two candidates. Third parties, who lack special interest dollars are shunned by the corporate media that controls most TV channels whether they're supposedly "left", "right", "or in between".

Win at the casino too much? Go to prison.

Write a script to dump scientific papers to offer knowledge free to the world? Get charged with prison time.

Sell drugs that the pharmacy can legal sell (like meth.)? Go to prison.

Sell a plant that grows naturally throughout much of the country but that the feds can't tax and that threatens the alcohol and tobacco industries? Go to prison.

Manufacture and distribute a legitimate treatment to a condition that is not FDA approved? Go to prison.

Piss off the special interests -- corporations, unions, etc. -- and you go to prison, because lawmakers have written a nice set of ambiguous laws designed in the favor of the sponsors who bought them their comfy desk job and fame.

America is becoming an oligarchy at the end of the day, with the wealthy rulers backed by an army of jack-booted "enforcement" officials. Welcome to the police state, folks.

Wake up, Americans: America's "two parties" on a federal level are bought and paid for. For now there are other parties that are more independent and true to their ideals.

Start voting smarter, and start demanding change from your elected officials via letters, protests, and other peaceful means or sooner or later you or your children will find yourself beneath the hard booted foot crushing down on your skull.

RE: Nope
By ritualm on 5/2/2013 1:39:27 PM , Rating: 3
Start voting smarter, and start demanding change from your elected officials via letters, protests, and other peaceful means or sooner or later you or your children will find yourself beneath the hard booted foot crushing down on your skull.

When both the Democrats and Republicans are bought and sold to the highest bidder (lobbyist), our votes are worth nothing.

Forget about changing the current status quo via peaceful means; it's never worked over the past quarter century, it's not working at all right now and it won't work in the future. Blood needs to be spilled, and if that requires a civil war, so be it.

RE: Nope
By arazok on 5/2/2013 3:27:28 PM , Rating: 4
Nonsense. The miracle of the USA is that the ONLY thing that needs to happen for this to change is for the people to do one thing. Don’t vote for Democrats OR Republicans.

All it would take is ONE election cycle where people vote en-mass for a party that promises to pass constitutional changes sucking the money and corruption out of Washington politics. After that, the republicans and democrats would be forced to rebuild from their own ashes and people could go back to voting for the guy with the prettiest hair again. At least he won’t have the greenest pockets anymore.

Easier said than done, but so is rebelling against a government with a trillion dollar army. I’d pick the former, and vote for any small party with an anti-corruption agenda AND make sure to donate money to them so they can afford to market themselves. The last part is key to initiate change.

I don’t know US fringe parties well, but here in Canada I stopped voting for the major parties 3 years ago. I put my chips in with the Freedom Party, and I donate $200 a year to help them further the cause.

RE: Nope
By chick0n on 5/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Nope
By GmTrix on 5/3/2013 8:59:59 AM , Rating: 2
The problem is that no matter how many diatribes you write on the internet, or how many informative articles you read and share to your friends, family, etc. you are not going to persuade people in large enough numbers to not have a Democrat or Republican elected. Not in the foreseeable future anyways. Whether it's an education issue, an apathy issue, or something else entirely, the large majority of people either don't know or don't care enough to make that kind of decision. It's not that I don't support trying to educate, inspire, and inform the rest of the country; it's just that I think we need to be realistic about how much affect that's going to have on people who, in general, just don't want to be bothered.

RE: Nope
By arazok on 5/3/2013 10:47:57 AM , Rating: 5
I disagree. Momentum matters. All that’s needed is some small party to get a toehold, and begin building support. At some point, a critical mass is hit and people begin to pay attention, and it snowballs. The idiots of society will pile on simply because everyone else is, just as they do now with the big parties.

It seems like the mood exists in the US. The tea party is a sign of this change, but they are attached to the republicans and have a certain bias and baggage attached to that that will keep them in a minority status. What’s needed is a party that can appeal to both the left and the right by focusing on fundamental constitutional reforms, rather then left/right politics. (Sadly, most parties focused on this are tilted to the right so this may be difficult)

This doesn’t need to be a choice between socialism/libertarian. It needs to be about corruption, campaign financing, delegating more power to the states, the constitution, and respect for citizens’ rights. It doesn’t matter if the US steers left/right. That stuff is important, but needs to be put aside for now. Focus on fundamental reforms and the rest will fall into place.

To be honest, I think if the states were treated more like countries, everyone could be happy. Texas could be a low tax, small government haven with no big ticket services, and California could be a socalist utopia with high taxes and free healthcare. The feds need to refocus on boring things like interstate trade, and foreign affairs.

RE: Nope
By TSS on 5/4/2013 4:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
The Tea party is an excellent example why it's too late to change via peacefull means.

Maybe the "mind" exists amongst the people but the action they should take against the system is completly oblivious to them. Have you read any of the tea party's economic proposals? They're complete and utter suicide! They would benifit the rich ten times what current policies do!

Yet they enjoy massive support. Because they're simply stating they're "against" something. That's the mind of the people right now, they're "against" the current system but have no clue what they are "for".

Ron paul was your best shot and you can see what happened. His economic proposals are only insane in that they're outdated and wouldn't work in a modern world, but atleast they worked once. Compared to the economic ideas of the rest which have never and will never work. How many votes did he get, both as a independant in 2008 and as a republican in 2012? Exactly.

The average american is ignorant as fuck at this point. I'm reading more and more shocking statistics each day. did you know about 40+% of the (remaining) population of detroit is functionally illiterate? They can still vote though. How the hell would they know who to vote for and why, if they can't even read?!

But to be honest, in my oppinion, it's too late even if the mind of the people was set on revolution. Do you really think you can fight a war against the government when 1/3rd of the population is too fat to run? Can't hide behind a tree because both their gut and their butt are sticking out?

Maybe 5-6 years ago it could've still happened but it's far too late now. We're in a full fledged collapse of the roman empire, including the massive loss of skill and knowledge as happened in the 500's. I wouldn't have believed it if i wasn't alive to experience it myself, but there you go. One indication of this is the loss of cheap skill analog producing techniques in favor of expensive specialized digital technology (soon to be unaffordable by the masses), another would be a society built on the concept of throwing stuff away while not even 50 years ago things where built and repaired to last decades, meaning all those skills and tricks learned repairing stuff are lost and have to be relearned.

If i was living in the US right now (i'm not but if i was) i would get the hell out. After a decade or 2 of severe poverty everybody's alot thinner and alot more focused on what they do want, rather on what they don't.

RE: Nope
By Reclaimer77 on 5/3/2013 9:40:14 AM , Rating: 1
All it would take is ONE election cycle where people vote en-mass for a party that promises to pass constitutional changes sucking the money and corruption out of Washington politics.

Unfortunately thanks mostly to Democrats/Liberals, there's now a huge percentage of Americans who directly benefit from Government spending/handouts/subsidies in one form or another. And they simply reject the notion that things need to change and this path we're on is unsustainable. Putting Obama in the White House for a second term was an absolute repudiation of any notion of fiscal responsibility, personal accountability, and that anything needs to be changed.

There is such a widespread culture here of socialism and central planning, with now nearly half the country sucking directly from the Governments tit, the notion that the people will vote en-mass against it is just not believable to me at all.

It took me a long time to finally come to grips with this fact, but it's true. And depressing. Railing against parties is fun at times, but ultimately pointless. The real villains in America are the people.

"When the public discovers they can vote themselves money from the public treasury, the [American] experiment will be over"

-Tocqueville 1838

RE: Nope
By lyeoh on 5/3/2013 2:52:46 PM , Rating: 3
Seems to me the rich ones are much better at voting themselves money than the poor ones despite the poor ones outnumbering the rich.

RE: Nope
By FITCamaro on 5/4/2013 10:01:06 AM , Rating: 2
Most just keep more of THEIR money. Not take other people's.

Now the liberal "green" causes are very good at taking our money to make their leaders richer.

RE: Nope
By Ammohunt on 5/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: Nope
By AlphaVirus on 5/2/2013 1:54:14 PM , Rating: 3
Give this man a 6!

The problem is only a handful of people are starting to wake up to this truth.

RE: Nope
By mackx on 5/2/2013 3:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
the people on top have learnt over the ages. treat your slaves/the plebs badly and eventually a spartacus will come along and there will be blood.

but, give them shiny trinkets to play with, keep them entertained and just comfortable enough - any they'll never rebel. just have a panic every now and then (a boom and bust if you will) to distract them and we'll all be content and play our part.

no spartacus in the modern age - he had it easy. there were no drones flying over roman cities. it's coming, and el presidente has authority to kill civilians no?

RE: Nope
By daboom06 on 5/2/2013 3:30:43 PM , Rating: 2
keep the people's beer, football, and menial labor available and everyone's happy.

RE: Nope
By ClownPuncher on 5/2/2013 3:46:49 PM , Rating: 4
Nope. Beer has become so expensive now my ire is focused on the government!

RE: Nope
By WinstonSmith on 5/3/2013 10:08:30 AM , Rating: 3
"the people on top have learnt over the ages. treat your slaves/the plebs badly and eventually a spartacus will come along and there will be blood."

Exactly! Give them games and circuses. Bring the pot to a boil slowly. They won't notice or, if they do, won't complain.

At this point, the only thing that will in any significant way lead to a repair of the corrupt political and financial system in this country or, for that matter, in the entire "developed" world, is a massive financial collapse that takes away all of those games and circuses and gets Joe and Jane Sixpack off the sofa. That's beginning to happen in parts of Europe.

RE: Nope
By Spuke on 5/2/2013 3:37:22 PM , Rating: 1
Win at the casino too much? Go to prison.
This guy didn't "Win at the casino too much?". He exploited a bug. No skill involved. High rollers win MILLIONS from casinos every year, why are they not in jail?

RE: Nope
By chick0n on 5/2/2013 9:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
no skill involve ? you do know how they program their machines right? the chance of winning is less than you can get from winning powerball. So it's not even a "fair game" to begin with.

RE: Nope
By CU on 5/3/2013 9:40:50 AM , Rating: 4
I know how they are programmed as it was my job. The chance vary per game and how they are setup at the casino. They normally payout anywhere from 80%-95% of what they take in. The trick is to leave when you are ahead. If you watch a game long enough you can determine approximately when it will pay out based on the statistics of it. This is way harder than counting cards to win at a poker though. Part of what makes the game fun or not is how much and when it pays out. If it always gave you $0.80 for every dollar you put in it would not be that fun. Nor would it be fun if you lost everything every time except on the 1000th time you played you won $200. So there are lots of prizes that have different chances to win. But if you play for infinity the math works out that you will lose. So, just stop when you are ahead or run out of money. Don't risk your life savings or anything.

Also your odds of winning the big jackpot are much much better than winning the powerball jackpot. But, the powerball is much larger than a slot's jackpot.

RE: Nope
By Reclaimer77 on 5/2/2013 4:57:36 PM , Rating: 2
We can't vote our way out of this. The Constitutional restraints on Federal power and it's intended checks and balances, have been irrevocably swept aside. The Founders knew over 200 years ago that what we're dealing with today, was the ultimate result if our Government was allowed to consolidate it's power. And consolidate it has, big time.

And no matter what new party we put in power to replace Dems and Reps, they will be privy to those Unconstitutional powers and sooner or later, WILL take advantage of them. And then we'll be right back in the same boat.

Furthermore, it's hard to even make the argument that 'the people' want much changed when Barrack Obama was actually re-elected.

It's over Jason, it's all over.

RE: Nope
By StevoLincolnite on 5/3/2013 9:59:14 AM , Rating: 2
Then vote for Ron Paul? He stands up for the peoples rights from what I have seen and I'm on the other side of the planet, if you don't want him, we will gladly take him.

RE: Nope
By Azethoth on 5/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Nope
By Motoman on 5/2/2013 5:47:12 PM , Rating: 5
All of the above, as I've stated before, reasons why political parties and lobbying should be outlawed.

RE: Nope
By woody1 on 5/2/2013 6:33:33 PM , Rating: 2
You're jumping the gun here. The American "police state" hasn't convicted this guy of anything. A prosecutor has brought a case against him, that's what's happened. What the motives of the prosecutor might be, I couldn't say, but Nevada is pretty much the most Libertarian state in the US, so I wouldn't be so quick to say that this prosecution is the result of a police state.

Probably, it's a result of local politicians being heavily influenced by rich local business people, the same people that Libertarians usually spend their time sticking up for. As far as the country becoming an oligarchy, that's the kind of situation that Libertarian politics leads to.

Maybe you should wait and see what a judge and jury decides before you get yourself any more worked up about this.

RE: Nope
By Motoman on 5/2/2013 7:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe you should wait and see what a judge and jury decides before you get yourself any more worked up about this.

...because, you know, judges and juries never do anything stupid.

RE: Nope
By woody1 on 5/4/2013 3:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
Good point. So... what method do you suggest to decide who's guilty and who's innocent, since, you know, judges and juries don't work???

RE: Nope
By Kiffberet on 5/3/2013 7:31:21 AM , Rating: 2
"Land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy!"

RE: Nope
By FITCamaro on 5/3/2013 8:05:49 AM , Rating: 3
So elect conservatives who don't sell themselves to the highest bidder. Not Democrats or little 'r' Republicans who do.

RE: Nope
By Rukkian on 5/3/2013 1:50:38 PM , Rating: 2
I would be interested to see who you think that is. I would love to vote for somebody that could not be bought, but non get any attention because every election costs 100's of times more money to be elected than it actually pays.

RE: Nope
By FITCamaro on 5/4/2013 10:09:28 AM , Rating: 2
The issue is everyone running for office will at some point be accused of being "bought and paid for" if they're given money by anyone. Yes you have to raise money to run a campaign. I recently worked with a conservative candidate in the SC District 1 special election who was accused of being "bought" by out of state "interests" because some of his clients supported him.

You look for people who absolutely believe in and follow the Constitution. Now obviously there are many different views on what that entails. But I look for someone who believes the Constitution means what it says and who also takes into account the worldview and events the founders had and lived through.

For instance this particular candidate is a very devout Christian. He is against abortion entirely and believes it should be banned at the federal level because all Americans, young and old, born or unborn have a God given, constitutionally protected right to life. But he had a woman ask him if, provided he was elected, he would help her organization get their funding back that fought against abortion that was given to Planned Parenthood when Obama took office. He told her no. Why? Because it isn't the federal government's job or authority to provide funding to advocate either way. That's what individuals, charities, churches, and other causes are for.

That is my measure of a conservative candidate.

RE: Nope
By EricMartello on 5/6/2013 5:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
Start voting smarter, and start demanding change from your elected officials via letters, protests, and other peaceful means or sooner or later you or your children will find yourself beneath the hard booted foot crushing down on your skull.

Don't disagree with anything you said except for the way to bring about change...the price of freedom is blood. Always was and always will be...and that's a price that most people in America just aren't willing to pay.

The old saying, "the pen is mightier than the sword" does not mean that writing angry letters (or even well-reasoned letters) is going to change anything. It won't. What it means is that informing the people of the true state of affairs, one could motivate them to take action against those who would seek to exploit them. If enough people realize how much they're being screwed over by the elites, they might just decide they've had enough.

RE: Nope
By MrBlastman on 5/2/2013 2:25:44 PM , Rating: 5
The only reason he was arrested and indicted is because money owns our Government right now. The Casinos and Slot Machine companies probably lobbied the State so hard in the past that it had no choice but to side with them and try and throw this guy in prison. After all, if the Casinos and Slot company loses money, the State loses money in the long run.

He's a victim of the system.

All you have to do is look no further than Lance Armstrong. As despicable a crime he perpetrated (cheating at racing), how come it is he that is being prosecuted right now for fraud when many others are far more worthy of Federal attention?

Who, might you ask, would that be? The entire financial system, that's who. What about John Corzine and similar cronies? Are they in trouble? Nope. They lobby and give money to the system. They're immune to action.

So yeah, as you said, this guy, the guy playing slots--he did nothing wrong. He pushed buttons. He played the game the way it was laid out using the tools of the game provided. He did nothing more than participate in it and once he figured out a foolproof way to win, the system came after him.

That's what a perfect system does.

RE: Nope
By dgingerich on 5/3/13, Rating: 0
RE: Nope
By MrBlastman on 5/3/2013 1:28:12 PM , Rating: 3
No, it is not theft and I'll explain to you why.

1. The machine doesn't have stated in the rules: You are not permitted to press buttons in x sequence. Pressing them in such a way would be breaking the rules, thus, you aren't allowed to do it.

2. The machine did not have code in place to prevent this sequence from dispensing money. It did nothing to prevent the button presses from allowing that to happen.

#2 above illustrates Casino risk. Wait, what? Well, think about it. When you go to a Casino, you pay them money to take a risk at making money in return. You accept that you have odds of some number in winning but in return, you have odds of losing your money--and typically your odds of losing money are far greater than winning. On the other side of the fence, the Casino shares in those odds with you. They accept that they have higher odds of winning and should those odds tilt against them in the gamblers favor, they should pay out.

Casinos go to great lengths to mitigate their risks. I happen to know people who have written software for Casino machines. They've told me lots of stories about how the machines are optimized in certain ways to maximize positive cash flow for the Casino. The Casinos do things like putting machines with better odds of small payouts in the front row and the machines with the best odds of large payouts in the back (but have very poor odds of frequent, small payouts). The reason being is if people walk in and see patrons winning, they'll be more inclined to play.

Casinos game the system. Don't ever walk into one and think they don't. They're gaming you from the minute you set foot on the premesis. They do everything in their power to entice you to spend money and will utilize every legal trick in the book to keep you spending that money from the illusion of possibly being able to win all the way down to buying you free drinks (to get you drunk) to giving you free rooms (to keep you spending money). They even employ people to play versus others to keep the illusion strong.

They also contract with machine manufacturers who work with them to help them remain profitable. When a Casino purchases something, be it a billards table or a slot machine, they assume risk with that purchase. They might be told by the manufacturer that the odds are X and they can change them with the press of a button--but they assume the burden of payout should the risk not tilt in their favor.

Why should you, the patron, assume all the risk? Casino bets are a two sided transaction, not a one sided one. Just because you figure out a way to win (say by counting cards which is NOT illegal), it doesn't mean you are breaking the law or shouldn't be paid... provided you work within the rules of the game and don't use 3rd party devices or equipment to cheat the system.

No, what the man did is not criminal. He found a way to work within the system provided. He should not be prosecuted.

The only grievance here exists between the Casino and the machine manufacturer. Nobody else. The Casino perhaps could sue the manufacturer for faulty equipment and misrepresentation. Nothing more.

About the ONLY thing the Casino can do to the patron who is winning is... kick them out. That's all. Not anything else. Playing within the posted rules is not criminal, no matter if they figured out how to win or not.

Lets say a patron walks into a rigged casino that has a roulette wheel biased not only to black but say the number 42. The number 42 wins more often than not on black--and say the patron discovers this. Lets say they figure out a mathematical sequence the casino is using and bet always at the right time. They exploit the casino's system. They then proceed to win thousands of dollars. Is that criminal? Should they be incarcerated? Did they break the law?

No. Risk is two-sided in Casinos. Never forget that.

RE: Nope
By Piiman on 5/4/2013 10:45:53 AM , Rating: 1
No your logic is wrong. You don't invite someone to come to your home to take your stuff. However the casinos do invite you to try and win which this guy did. The problem is the casinos for buying machines with buggy software. (which by the way may have been done on purpose by some programmer who actually exploits it from time to time themself)

Do they really expect people to report these things to them?

Player: Excuse me I just won a millions bucks but I want to make sure your machine didn't make a mistake.

Casino: Yep its a mistake sorry no money for you.

The Casinos needs to take it up with the manufacturer of the machine and not try to throw someone in jail that has lost way more than they have ever won. If his lawyer is telling the truth this guy is still WAYYYYYYY in the hole to the Casino so what are they bitching about?

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