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Video Poker Firmware Bug Yields Big Money, Federal Charges

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the sounds-like-a-feature-to-me dept.

The Courts 312

JoeyRox writes "Over the course of playing $12 million worth of video poker, Las Vegas resident John Kane stumbled onto a firmware bug in IGT's 'Game King' machines that allowed him to cash out for 10x the amount of his winnings. John and his friends took advantage of the vulnerability to the tune of $429,945. John's friend was arrested by U.S. marshals and charged with violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but a federal magistrate ruled that the law doesn't apply and recommended dismissal. The case is currently being argued in a U.S. District Court."

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312 comments

Fraud is fraud (2, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43603863)

If you knowingly trick a computer into giving you money that's not yours, it's not any different than tricking a person into the same. Open door fallacies are the worst.

Re:Fraud is fraud (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43603917)

The machine is programmed to behave in a certain way. If you handle it in some way, it will give you more money. I'd blame the vendor. Do you blame the customer who goes to the shop where they often overpay him in change for fraud?

Re:Fraud is fraud (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603999)

There was a case like this in the UK a few years ago. A family discovered that a particular cash machine was systematically giving out double the amount you had withdrawn. They repeatedly withdrew money using this machine. They were reported, and convicted of fraud. I doubt it would have happened with one-off visitors. If you ONCE visit a cash machine that gives you £200 and deducts from your account the £100 you intended to withdraw, then you've got lucky: you can't have known it would do that. But repeatedly visiting a machine that is misprogrammed to act in your favour, when you know that that is not how it is intended to function, is something quite different. That clearly amounts to fraud.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about a year ago | (#43604023)

He got lucky. Gaming should reward luck.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0, Flamebait)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year ago | (#43604157)

EVERY 'professional' poker player I know (ok, both, but they are family) claim poker is not a game of chance or luck, but one of skill. They don't play against the house, or a machine, or even on the outcome of a chance event, but rather they pay against other individuals, across the table from them. And they match skill against skill, they say.

That's their story. Poker can reward luck, apparently, but they don't claim to be lucky. Even when they draw an inside straight, they claim they used skill to get into a position to win.

If you disagree, I can't give you their numbers. They will scoff at you and hang up. And you will be angry. Pass.

Re:Fraud is fraud (4, Informative)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year ago | (#43604195)

Video Poker != Poker

Mainly because you're not playing against other players, you're playing against the house who defines the rules (the Gaming Commission is involved enough to make sure that there's a fair chance of winning, but "fair" does not imply "fair to the players").

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43604233)

If you believe in physics as the ruler of our universe, then everyone has the same odds, so even though randomness is a factor, it won't effect the outcome of a poker players career, though it may effect the outcome of a single game.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604421)

Everyone has equal odds of winning a given hand, but the players choose how much to bet, so their losses can be different. A good player will have good and bad hands but bet more on the good hands and less on the bad hands (and whether a hand is good or bad is relative to the rest of the players, so a good player also has to figure out if someone else at the table is betting in a way consistent with having a worse or better hand).

Re:Fraud is fraud (2)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about a year ago | (#43604235)

Well, they're just mitigating bad luck with shrewd long-game play. It's still a game of luck if you look at it per-hand, but there are betting strategies and other skills involved if you intend to play the long-game, at which point I guess it becomes a game of skill.

Re:Fraud is fraud (4, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | about a year ago | (#43604037)

How is it fraud? If you tell a machine you want $20 and it gives you $40 (even if you do it repeatedly), you haven't committed an act of deception. I'm not saying it's right or ethical, I'm saying it's not fraud, and it certainly shouldn't be prosecuted that way. Theft by taking, maybe.

Re:Fraud is fraud (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604121)

Yeah, which happens to be a real problem in the baking industry. I asked for a dozen rolls and got 13. I sensed the baker was trying to make me inadvertently steal, so I threw the last one back at him and called him names. Learn to count.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43604277)

You took more money than you should have gotten. The machine is not aware of the error. You are. Its no different than any other type of fraud.

You're trying to pretend its OK to do it because you're not doing it in front of a person, but none the less you are taking advantage of someone elses ignorance.

The first time, you didn't know you were doing it. Thats okay in every way. The second time you did it, it was intentional. Thats not okay in any way.

You have deceived the bank by taking $40 when you told them you were taking $20.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604495)

If you tell a machine you want $20 and it gives you $40 (even if you do it repeatedly), you haven't committed an act of deception.

Repeatedly can mean a lot of different things. Intent is the biggest factor.

If you are doing a normal action and are unexpectedly rewarded, it might not be fraud, you might not have even noticed. If you do this repeatedly it still might not be. However if you are doing a highly complex abnormal action, doing it repeatedly, seeking out other machines and people to help you repeat the action for personal profit, fraud seems about right.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#43604513)

If you tell a machine you want $20 and it gives you $40, you haven't committed an act of deception.

True.

(even if you do it repeatedly)

Theres "technically possible", and theres "fraud". Sometimes the two overlap.

Intentionally abusing a process in bad faith can be a crime, and should be a crime; society doesnt make rules based on whether something is "possible", just based on whether it should be allowed.

Re:Fraud is fraud (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604331)

This happens all of the time with ATM's in the US. It never makes it to court.

When the bank loads an ATM cassette, they know exactly how much money is in it and what denomination of bills it contains. The serial number of the cassette is recorded by the person loading the ATM as well as by the ATM itself, by way of an RFID chip in the cassette. This links back to a database of ATM cassettes and their current load status and contents. The bank knows exactly, down to the serial numbers on the bills, what is in that cassette. Modern ATM's even automate the configuration from that database. The problem is that older ATM's don't.

When you go to an ATM and ask it for $40 (common "fast cash" amount these days), and the ATM has been configured for $20 bills, it dispenses two bills. If it's configured for $10 bills, it dispenses 4 bills. In older ATM's, the configuration is done manually. If a $20 cassette is loaded but the ATM is configured for a $10 cassette, it dispenses the wrong number of bills. That $40 you ask for is 4 bills, but the bills are $20 now, and you get $80.

When this happens, the bank will discover it as soon as they change the ATM cassette. Then they will find EVERY transaction that ATM performed on the previous cassette and contact the account-holders, notifying them that due to an incorrect ATM configuration, they were given more than they requested, and that the account has been rectified to reflect the correct ATM payout. For this transaction, any overdraft fees are waived (by law), and the transaction is applied to the day that the correct is made, not to the day the ATM paid out incorrectly (again, by law).

That's when most people drag their sorry butts back to the bank to make an emergency deposit of some no-longer ill-gotten gains to shore up their account balance.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43604347)

The laws are also different. In the US, if someone mistakenly "gives" you something (they intended to give you something, but made an error), the international standard of "finders keepers" applies. Outside the US, the act of giving can be "withdrawn" if the gifter finds they made an error and works in good faith to correct it, and if you take something offered outside reasonability, you should have know it was an error and not done it.

In the US, the "free" items at a checkout usually say "take one" because if they said "free" some jackass would walk in and take them all. Outside the US, you are more likely to see things with implied "within reason". So "free" stuff is much more common, and you are expected to not abuse it.

It's cultural and legal differences.

But for this case, he gambled real money and got real payoffs. The problem is if you get paid out more than the house rigged it, it's a crime. The only fraud is on the part of the casino.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604401)

There was a case like this in the UK a few years ago. A family discovered that a particular cash machine was systematically giving out double the amount you had withdrawn. They repeatedly withdrew money using this machine. They were reported, and convicted of fraud.

So if you were to run a bank which took in £1M of deposits and paid out £5M of loans, similar fraud conviction?

So if you were to run a central bank which took in £1B of gold and issued £5B of currency, similar fraud conviction?

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43604205)

You blame the customer who throws a skeleton key (concrete brick) through the window and takes shit without paying ... and you're arguing that you don't do anything to the customer because he should have known the customer could throw a brick so its the vendor's fault.

The rules of the game are clear. Malfunction voids all games. That works BOTH directions. That means neither side whens in the case of an error in the machine. You agreed to that by playing.

Its not like these are rules for posted are not well known in advance, they are clearly written EVERYWHERE in vegas.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

Sancho (17056) | about a year ago | (#43604289)

Do you blame the hacker who constructs the packet which causes the machine to operate in a way that it wasn't designed (deleting the database, giving higher level access than desired, etc?)

Re:Fraud is fraud (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#43603923)

But that's not the right law to charge him under. Charge him under fraud or stealing, no problem. This is the anti-hacking law- they're charging him with hacking. I don't think this qualifies. It also is the difference between being tried in the federal court system (hacking is a federal crime) vs the state (which owns the laws for theft and fraud).

Either way he should be prosecuted, the question is why and where.

Re:Fraud is fraud (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#43603971)

I don't think he should be prosecuted.

They have a machine...he didn't sigh any EULA or agreements about how to use it.

The main use of this machine is you put money into it, you hit buttons, it sometimes pays out.

He found a combination of buttons that causes it to pay out a LOT.

I see no problem with what he did. He simply put money in and pushed buttons on machine set out in public for the purpose of people pushing buttons and sometimes getting money out of it.

Show where he violated the signed terms of use or NDA or other type contract on exactly HOW he was to use the machine, and maybe you have a case.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604059)

The main use of this machine is you put money into it, you hit buttons, it sometimes pays out. He found a combination of buttons that causes it to pay out a LOT.

That's not exactly what he did. He found a combination of buttons that caused it to think he put in 10x the money he really did. Bad faith for sure. Illegal? We'll find out.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604313)

Why bad faith?
Anyone looking to win from gambling is instinctivly looking for an easy way to make money. The way I see it, they should call it a feature, reduce the payouts 10x, and place those machines all over the place.

Gamblers, want easy money, easy wins. They want to beat the system. Some gamblers actually did that, and now face charges.

But they're not going to win, no matter what happens, they'll face charges, pay back the money, some fines and it will all be a very public exercise in humiliation. This industry is powerful, so much, that they managed to kick out Antigua and others out of the USA gambling business ... I'd plead guilty and hope for a sympathetic judge.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604101)

Intent is an important aspect of the law. If you know it's not supposed to do what you're making it do, then you're abusing the machine. If you don't know, then you're not, even if you press the same buttons and elicit the same behavior.

Suppose what you say were true and just because you never signed a contract or agreement, you were allowed to exploit publicly accessible machines. What is a web server if not a publicly accessible machine that you access without first signing a terms of service agreement?

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604225)

Intent.... Ahhhhh, the dangling "what-we-think-about-you" rule system.....

Intent means you're guilty if you are a black biker gang leather wearing thug looking kinda guy even if you have a heart of gold.

It means if you are a white married mom with young babies then you were totally alright..... if your kids are cute and you dress nice and clean.

If you have a skin disorder that gives you a zitty pimply face.... then you're probably also guilty.....

If you're all full of yourself yet completely innocent under the regular interpretation of Intent, you'll still be guilty because you are full of yourself and need to be punished.....

Intent is BULLSHIT and means nothing. You can't crack brains to see what they thought.... Anything less is favoritism by association (old: good, young: bad, etc)

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604123)

Even better--what if the machine was buggy the other way, in the casino's favor? If the bug was not obvious to the player, and it was found by a developer or casino employee, do you think it'd be fixed? My guess is probably not. So in cases like this, I think allowing the players to keep the money balances things out.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year ago | (#43604257)

This is why the Gaming Commission is required to test/inspect the machines (to include deposits and payouts) on a regular basis. Until you have evidence that this is happening you're just trying to justify theft.

If the machine were found to be faulty, the individual would have their provable losses returned to them, probably up to a few hundred dollars. The casinos in Vegas are smart enough to recognize that it would cost them more to go to court and would be more than happy to return their money (money that, if the customer is happy, is probably going to be given back to the casino within a few hours anyway).

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43604407)

The LAW is clear.

Malfunction voids the game. That goes both directions. They MUST refund any money they can. They MUST report it to the gaming board, and the board will decide how to handle the situation further ... like deal with a situation where its been happening for too long to possibly find and refund money to all players. In the end, the casino will NOT get to keep the money and MAY get fined/sanctioned.

Casino's don't just do whatever suits them in this aspect, gambling is a tightly regulated industry in the US. While they can legally take your money for you being stupid and handing it too them, the states require them to be VERY precise. They can not mislead you even a little bit, even unintentionally.

They don't need to do anything sleezy believe it or not, people will be happy to throw money at them with everything out in the open and up front about it.

In a universe populated by geeks, that would work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604135)

But in this one, it doesn't. Spending an extra $50 that appears in your checking account is not fraud, spending an extra $500k that appears there is. Logically, there is no difference, but intent matters. Unless you are a billionaire, when you see $500k that you didn't deposit, you know it' s an error, and you have an obligation to "not spend money that isn't yours." Regardless of whether the bank lets you.

This game is much the same. The first time the game overpaid him, and he was drinking, and just took his receipt, cashed out, went home, slept it off, and noticed he had more Benjamins than he expected.... this wasn't a crime.

When he went back trick the same machine, the same way, again, it was.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604143)

He did something that I think any reasonable person would know was not the proper use of the machine.

The exploit was that he would play at the minimum bet until he got a big win. Then he would switch the game to another mode and change the denomination he was betting to the maximum amount [note: there were actually a couple more intermediate steps necessary to cause the bug]. Then he would go back to the first mode and ask to cash out his win, and it would recalculate the amount of his win as though he had been betting the large amount in the first place. So if his first payout was at odds of 820:1 on a bet of $1, he would actually receive $8200.

He knew that he was supposed to receive $820 and that it was the proper odds for the game. He had no business getting $8200.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604325)

Its a shitty case.
Establishment abuses customers clearly, by using laws of math.
He did same thing - suddenly he is criminal.

Re:Fraud is fraud (-1, Flamebait)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43604343)

They have a machine...he didn't sigh any EULA or agreements about how to use it.

God you must be some fucking asshole.

Do you really want to live in a world where people have to have no respect for your wishes unless you get them to put their signature on paper? Do you want to end internet commerce as you know it? Do want all of the Internet to suddenly disappear because a whole bunch of shit suddenly becomes impractical to do because everyone spends a bunch of time waiting for the mailman to show up with signed documents?

Fortunately, assholes like you do not YET, rule the world.

When you walk into the casino ... and EVERY SLOT MACHINE has a sign on it stating various FACTS and LAWS ... then you lose your argument completely.

Just because you try to say 'well I didn't know I wasn't allowed to take the extra money it gave me that I didn't think I wont and you didn't make me agree to anything like that' doesn't mean anyone gives a shit.

You haven't made me sign a document stating that I won't kill you while you sleep ... so I guess its okay if I do then? I think everyone would agree the world would benefit from that.

Do you sign a document or NDA before going into walmart and stealing money from their cash register? Is that how you get by with it?

If you see no problem with what he did, you are truly morally deficient. I mean it in the most sincere way, you need counseling. There is something wrong with your sense of right and wrong.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604405)

Using the same oversimplification: the point of a table game is to put chips on the table and hopefully get more chips back.

What this guy did was the equivalent of waiting until he got a large win, then distracting the dealer and switching his chips so they looked like he had wagered 10x what he actually did. Your logic claims that's ok, because it's just putting chips on the table at certain times and getting more back.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604519)

Sometimes machine mis-behave and they have mechanism to detect this and stop it. He went to a lot of effort to avoid these and I think that is where the Fraud charges come in. He deliberately went to lots of place and recruited many other individual to hide the fact that he was winning a lot.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

ewieling (90662) | about a year ago | (#43604155)

Card Counting is legal in the USA. I imagine other forms of "brain only" ways to "cheat" the casino are also legal. http://voices.yahoo.com/is-card-counting-really-illegal-las-vegas-3566727.html

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year ago | (#43604309)

Technically you're probably right, however I know that Casinos in Vegas do actually keep photographs and blacklists - if someone is in their books as being a "cheater" (to include card counting), the Casino is well within it's right to escort them from the premises. I have no idea how other places handle it (Atlantic City or Native Casinos), but in Vegas you generally don't get away with cheating for very long (both card counting and this exploit would be considered cheating by the casinos)

Re:Fraud is fraud (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43604409)

Technically you're probably right, however I know that Casinos in Vegas do actually keep photographs and blacklists - if someone is in their books as being a "cheater" (to include card counting), the Casino is well within it's right to escort them from the premises.

Well, that alone makes me side with the guy - if you advertise a game with some rules and then enforce a "but we'll only admit losers to the game" policy, you're already rigging it. Even if it were immoral per se for the guy to walk away with the money, I think that in the grand scheme of things, it would be only a tiny upwards adjustment of bad karma for the gaming industry.

Re:Fraud is fraud (2)

jittles (1613415) | about a year ago | (#43604415)

I spent some time in the security room of an Indian casino and I've seen the book with my own eyes. The Indian casinos and Vegas casinos all share this information willingly. You end up in the book in Vegas and you can bet that every legal casino in the country is going to get your information in no time.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603929)

Oh please. The entire point of gambling machines is to game the system in an attempt to make money. These guys did exactly that. If it was a bug in an ATM, I would agree with you, but not so with gambling machines.

Re:Fraud is fraud (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43603941)

I thought having buggy game machine fw's was a federal offence?
now, do you think he should have been able to keep the money from the first time he pressed the buttons? perhaps the second too, how could he know wtf is really going inside the machine?

at the very least the computer fraud act shouldn't apply to a device that's supposed to just be a device and from his viewpoint it had no difference if it was a mechanical gambling machine or a computer.

bear in mind that in order to get ANY money out of a video poker you have to apply "skill" as well. that is pressing the right buttons at the right time. is it a trick to press the right buttons? "Kane’s attorney, Andrew Leavitt, says Kane played by the rules imposed by the machine, and that’s all that matters."

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

unrtst (777550) | about a year ago | (#43604417)

Every time I've ever played those damn machines, they take all my money. I've managed a win here or there, but never came out on top, and whatever budget I set for myself was exhausted in short order. We're told that's how they're supposed to work; that the odds are in the houses favor; that walking away with more money than you start with is supposed to be a rare thing. These two guys pull that off, and they walk away with around $500k or so (each?), and they're the ones getting arrested? WTF?!? The casino's openly say they're just going to keep fleecing everyone, and we're all fine with that, but two guys get a couple bucks (by just pushing the buttons on the front that they're allowed to push) and they're evil?

The casinos should just fix the bug, or enable the work around, and move on. The first guy has played $12 MILLION in video poker prior to this. The house has made plenty to cover this relatively minor payout. Let these two guys be happy and tell all their friends how much they won, and put them on banners and billboards saying "look at these big winners!!!", and they'll get plenty more people flocking to the machines and losing it all.

I don't think they broken any of the mentioned laws, and the CFAA should be neutered, but none of that even matters. The casinos are already ahead of the game cash-wise; they've ID'd the bug; it's simple to disable the bug-causing feature; there's probably an update that fixes it; they're legally allowed to bar these guys from ever coming back (but why would they!?!!? he spent $12million on video poker alone before ever even discovering this bug); and last but not least, SHOULDN'T THEY BE SUING IGN (maker of the game)!?!?!

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603955)

If you knowingly trick a computer into giving you money that's not yours, it's not any different than tricking a person into the same. Open door fallacies are the worst.

What? Don't be silly! As any Slashdotter knows, if you can physically or logically do it, that by definition makes it legal and ethical. Unless it's being done to you; in that case, it's still both legal and ethical, it's just that we'll all mock and shun you for thinking there should be laws about computers that prevent us from getting free movies, music, programs, and money.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year ago | (#43604175)

Try tricking the person cross the table from you into giving you more chips than are in the pot.

If you can, that's a skill. If not, well, that's your problem.

Re:Fraud is fraud (2)

gfxguy (98788) | about a year ago | (#43603977)

Fraud is committing an act of deception; how did they deceive the computer? Did they use false credentials or something? No - he just re-pressed the cash-out button. That's not fraud, that's a firmware programmer found dead in a ditch. And to address anonymous's concerns - that doesn't make it ethical, it simply makes it not fraud.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43604057)

If you go up to a an elderly customer who's suffering from Alzheimer's and ask them to pay their bill several times, that's fraud. The user knew their actions weren't acceptable. I knew when I posted I'd get a million people giving me the damn open door fallacy. I even tried to head it off in my comment.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

gfxguy (98788) | about a year ago | (#43604107)

I'm not justifying the actions of the guy, just saying it's not fraud - he didn't deceive anybody; your analogy doesn't work because there was nothing wrong with the computer the way there is something wrong with someone with Alzheimer's - the analogy would be like asking a perfectly "normal" person to pay their bills several times. I'm not justifying it, I've got nothing against gaming companies or casinos, and I'm not saying it wasn't illegal (I would consider it theft by taking); I'm just saying it's not fraud.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604211)

If you go up to a an elderly customer who's suffering from Alzheimer's and ask them to pay their bill several times, that's fraud.

And if you kick an elderly person, that's assault. Are you saying I should be charged for assault when my Bugles get stuck in the vending machine?

Maybe I also need to be prosecuted for rape because my fleshlight hasn't given its consent.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#43604201)

If you go shopping and the cashier messes up and fails to properly scan one of your products and you notice but stay silent is that theft? You are walking out of the store with products that you know you haven't paid for so IMO yes. And I don't see this as significantly different just because it is a machine that is being taken advantage of rather than a person. Computer fraud and hacking? Don't be ridiculous. But I feel he could and should be charged with plain and simple theft. Incidentally, growing up I was always taught to watch the register as my purchases were being rung up to make sure it was accurate. So far that's cost me a free Skil-Saw, a free video game, and a free digital camera and saved me maybe $10 in random overcharges during the same time frame.

Here's another thought experiment for everyone that claims this behavior isn't illegal. Imagine you go into a 7-11 and notice that the cashier is blind and has accidentally put his $20s where his $1s should be in the register. Is it illegal for me to find buy a $0.50 pack of gum with a $5 bill, knowing he'll give me $80 in change? How about if I come back and do it again and again and again? How does that situation significantly differ from what these guys were doing with the video poker machine?

Re:Fraud is fraud (2)

gfxguy (98788) | about a year ago | (#43604227)

Why is this a response to my post? I didn't say it was ethical (or even legal), I said it wasn't "fraud." Even the article mentions the case calling it fraud was thrown out, but there are other laws that may have been violated. It's just not fraud.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603985)

The machine was programmed to work this way. He didn't trick anything.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43604093)

Programmed != clearly intended design.

Bugs should be fixed, yes, but that doesn't excuse exploiting them.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year ago | (#43604295)

IIRC, in Vegas gaming machine makers are required to write code that doesn't overtly cheat the gambler. As in, if the jackpot reaches astronomical size, the machine doesn't change the odds UNLESS that is the game, and everyone knows it. Which for video slots is not the game. the odds are supposed to stay the
same.

Haven't there been some court cases over whether software bugs could be used to recover unexpected winnings, after the gaming commission certified that the software was fair?

Oh. This [techdirt.com] , and an example of the casino, saying 'sorry, mistake, no jackpot for you [escapistmagazine.com] '. the comments for this story include references to some classic 'outs', like disclaimers etc.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604011)

So I guess the person who posted the following video (or any video like it):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s004cePIlsg [youtube.com]

has publicly shown that they are is guilty of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act since the law doesn't specify that money has to be stolen to violate the law. Is that correct?

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43604071)

Did I say I was in favor of that stupid law? No. I didn't. What I said is that fraud is what has taken place here.

Re:Fraud is fraud (5, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#43604029)

Exactly. For example if I am playing poker and have a lousy hand, but bid high to trick the other players into folding, then that's fraud too. If I use that trick to make money then I'm stealing from the house.

Right?

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

gfxguy (98788) | about a year ago | (#43604117)

No, because in poker you don't play against the house. In fact, by making the bluff with a huge bet, you're padding the house's take (they take a percentage of the pot - the house NEVER loses in poker).

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

organgtool (966989) | about a year ago | (#43604273)

Your example of bluffing is NOT fraud because you are fooling humans. It's alright to fool humans, but you had better not fool a machine! This guy fooled a machine to get more money than he deserved and the fault lies solely with him - not with the negligent developers of the firmware, not with the negligent testers of the machines, and not with the casinos who put them out on their floor. We can't expect people to do their jobs or to pay for the consequences of their own mistakes.

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | about a year ago | (#43604367)

If I use that trick to make money then I'm stealing from the house.

Generally poker is played against other players, you could try bluffing in video poker if you wanted, I just doubt it will have an effect.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604077)

Many things produced today have computers in them. This means if you are caught speeding you are using your car computer to break the law. If this is the case you clearly are an illegal hacker making the car do something that the designer didn't 'officially' want you to do. This makes you a cyber terrorist.

Since we can execute suspected terrorists with drone strikes and deport you to Gitmo without trial, we pretty much have avoided that pesky Sixth Amendment!

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604079)

I'm not sure about that.

I remember a story about people trying to game a casino. They bought a video poker machine they'd found had a faulty random number generator or something and put it through various tests. They got to the point where after playing a few rounds on the machine they could determine when to push particular buttons to generate large payouts, assuming the player could hit the button within the right time window.

In that case, they didn't alter the existing machine, didn't use it outside of it's intended use cases, they simply understood its behavior enough to game it.

I believe that's similar to the case in New Jersey about how it's illegal for Atlantic City casinos to ban card counters.

Re:Fraud is fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604391)

Problem is, they charged him with computer fraud. The feds cannot simply go to the judge, "err, yer honor, we'd like to chargechange", with double jeopardy, it's possible he's gonna walk...

Re:Fraud is fraud (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43604397)

If you knowingly trick a computer into giving you money that's not yours,

...It's called gambling.

He put money in a machine that was put there to pay out money at times. He got a payout at times. That the payout was not what was intended, he didn't "hack" the machine by changing it.

If you charge him with hacking, then you have to charge me with hacking the one time my chips were stuck in a vending machine and I shook it and out popped my chips (and a candy bar). And if I hadn't taken the candy for my trouble, the next person would have committed theft of my fraud, right?

Casino owners are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603881)

Whether or not it was legal, I don't see this as immoral.

Re:Casino owners are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603911)

How do you figure?
It's not like they force you into coming into their establishment and spend your money on devices that are openly not in your favor.

Re:Casino owners are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604019)

Not quite, but they DO exploit and take advantage of society's dumbest and most vulnerable in order to turn a profit. That's pretty damn scummy as far as I'm concerned.

The hilarious part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603895)

John Kane stumbled onto a firmware bug

John's friend was arrested

And the original perp gets away scott-free.

Abuse of civil matters (5, Insightful)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year ago | (#43603901)

This looks to me like a civil matter. That is, if there had never been the DMCA. There is a recent trend by big corporations to abuse the criminal court systems to resolve their disputes with the heavy hand of govnernment. I don't think it will stop until we stand up and demand government that is FOR the people.

Re:Abuse of civil matters (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603953)

well, I stood up and said it.. but then everyone in the cube farm turned around and looked at me funny so I sat back down

Re:Abuse of civil matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604279)

I declare..... BANKRUPTCY!

(Scene from The Office for those not in the loop)

Re:Abuse of civil matters (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43603967)

yeah..

when you're doing anything involves a computer, then every dispute suddenly becomes a federal offence. not really that well thought out.

Re:Abuse of civil matters (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43604529)

When it involves $400k ... it tends to become something that the feds get involved in, even if its just to ask the local cops what help they might need as its big enough to warrants the experience of higher level investigators.

Re:Abuse of civil matters (1)

gfxguy (98788) | about a year ago | (#43604001)

How does this violate DMCA? This has zero to do with copyright, and even if you wanted to push it, has nothing to do with circumventing ANYTHING. All they had to do was repeatedly push the cash-out button.

Re:Abuse of civil matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604051)

corporations are people my friend.

Or at least they'll be thought of as such by government are as long as they get they have the ability to throw money and lobbyists at presidential hopefuls and congress people.

Re:Abuse of civil matters (1)

AlKaMo (106874) | about a year ago | (#43604095)

This looks to me like a civil matter. That is, if there had never been the DMCA.

You're confusing DMCA and CFAA. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act pre-dates DMCA by more than 10 years and was initially designed to target '80s era hackers.

Re:Abuse of civil matters (1)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year ago | (#43604237)

Ok fine. My legal point about the trend of companies to force civil matters to be legal matters still stands.

After RTFA (4, Insightful)

John Napkintosh (140126) | about a year ago | (#43604009)

I don't see this as being a criminal act, but given the way that it was carried out, I think the casino has every right to demand 9/10 of his winnings back.

You win a game at the $1 level, exploit a bug to change your cash level to $10 before accepting the payout, and then accept your payout. Well, you didn't actually make the bet at the $10 level, so you shouldn't expect your winnings to be multiplied by 10, but that's what's happening here. I'd argue that he's still entitled to the original 1x amount and let the casino ban him if they want to.

Re:After RTFA (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43604073)

I don't see this as being a criminal act, but given the way that it was carried out, I think the casino has every right to demand 9/10 of his winnings back.

As far as I understand it, he already gave them more money than he ever won (a megabuck?).

Re:After RTFA (2)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year ago | (#43604105)

You're right. As a result of a civil case, I would expect him to have to pay back the money. But claiming he is a criminal is not necessary. We used to have the view in this country that anything which could be handled properly as a civil matter, SHOULD be handled as a civil matter.

Our legal system and law enforcement system has enough to deal with without imprisoning people over financial disputes.

Re:After RTFA (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#43604139)

The casino will probably dispute that.

Most machines around here are tagged "Malfunction voids all pays and plays" - if they can demonstrate that this is, in fact, a malfunction, then they may reasonably claim the payout value (but not any deposited credit in the machine).

Re:After RTFA (1, Interesting)

tgeek (941867) | about a year ago | (#43604269)

Except the machine did not malfunction. It did as it was programmed to do. The fact that it didn't do what the casino expected it to do does not make it a malfunction. The casino should be addressing this with the vendor if they want their money back.

Re:After RTFA (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about a year ago | (#43604383)

So, by your definition, all software is functioning perfectly at all times, since whatever instructions they have are de facto right?

Uh oh. Bluescreen and all of my credits are gone. Sorry, not a malfunction. The software did as it was programmed to do, and sometimes that includes crashes.

It would sometimes give him 10x more money than it should, because the software "wasn't malfunctioning."

Absurd.

Re:After RTFA (2)

neminem (561346) | about a year ago | (#43604459)

We have a phrase for that, "works as coded", and it is a sarcastic phrase that we make fun of mercilessly. The fact that the rules were clearly printed on the machine as to how it was supposed to behave, and it was clearly behaving differently than that (and in a way that was obviously not intended behavior) makes it a malfunction. It was a software malfunction rather than hardware, but clearly still a malfunction.

Going to jail for it? That'd be a bit of an overreaction. But he should definitely have to give back his unearned winnings.

Re:After RTFA (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43604351)

As much as I believe that they would argue this it seems like that was not a malfunction but instead the machine did exactly as it was told. There wasn't a part the broke inside or some random short that cropped up so one would think that it becomes quite difficult to claim that it was a malfunction. That won't stop the casino from trying and probably succeeding in doing so though.

Re:After RTFA (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year ago | (#43604141)

I don't see this as being a criminal act, but given the way that it was carried out, I think the casino has every right to demand 9/10 of his winnings back.

Under the law, the have no such right. Players are not responsible for malfunctioning gaming machines. Indeed, the casino can not even force you away from such a machine if it is accepting wagers and paying according to the published schedule. Walk away from it though, even if only for a moment, and it's game over, literally. This actually happened to a friend of mine years ago, during a visit to Reno. He'd stumbled onto a slot that was "stuck on win". They wanted very badly to have him get up so that they could take the machine out of service, and after a short while enticed him to do so, much to his later (and more sober) regret.

Re:After RTFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604165)

Players are not responsible for malfunctioning gaming machines. Indeed, the casino can not even force you away from such a machine if it is accepting wagers and paying according to the published schedule.

He was getting 10x the published schedule.

Can't cheat an honest man (5, Interesting)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#43604053)

The point of the machines (from the player perspective) is to stick in money, push buttons, and make it dispense more money (vouchers) than you put in.

The house edge comes from the fact that pushing the buttons correctly in all situations is difficult.

This guy did it right. If the house wants to fix the "bug" that allowed him to take out more money than they thought he should, that's their right.

Prosecution on this one... very grey area.

But I'll forward the how-to on to my video poker friends, just in case they find a machine with those firmware revisions, so that they'll be sure not to expose themselves to prosecution in this manner.

Re:Can't cheat an honest man (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#43604245)

So one the one way we have an individual. On the other we have a company.
Who will they decide for? Grey area? Not so much.

When talking about the law, I bet it is in favor of the house here as well.

No idea how he stumbled upon that (5, Informative)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about a year ago | (#43604091)

From TFA: Kane began by selecting a game, like Triple Double Bonus Poker, and playing it at the lowest denomination the machine allows, like the $1.00 level. He kept playing, until he won a high payout, like the $820 at the Silverton.

Then he’d immediately switch to a different game variation, like straight “Draw Poker.” He’d play Draw Poker until he scored a win of any amount at all. The point of this play was to get the machine to offer a “double-up”, which lets the player put his winnings up to simple high-card-wins draw. Through whatever twist of code caused the bug, the appearance of the double-up invitation was critical. Machines that didn’t have the option enabled were immune.

At that point Kane would put more cash, or a voucher, into the machine, then exit the Draw Poker game and switch the denomination to the game maximum — $10 in the Silverton game.

Now when Kane returned to Triple Double Bonus Poker, he’d find his previous $820 win was still showing. He could press the cash-out button from this screen, and the machine would re-award the jackpot. Better yet, it would re-calculate the win at the new denomination level, giving him a hand-payout of $8,200.

I bet you I know what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604471)

Cash out machines have only been around so long. It must have been a bug between the cashout (paperless) system and the actual interface with the board software. I bet the 'firmware bug' was there from the newly needed firmware for these to work with the next generation of paperless machines. If you play close attention the bug happens when the paperless cashout is fed back into the machine.

Paperless play machine = 1 more level of complexity = 1 more bug introduced - simple as that

Re:No idea how he stumbled upon that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604483)

He stumbled upon it by playing $12 million worth of video poker. When someone has played that much video poker, I'd be more surprised if they didn't find an exploitable bug somewhere.

Found it! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604111)

Up Up
Down Down
Left Right
Left Right
B A
Profit!

It is a criminal act (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604173)

The issue is intent. The person in this case clearly knew that they had found a flaw in the machine, and knowingly abused it to get money that he knew he wasn't owed.

This is no different than someone discovering a vulnerability on a web site and exploiting it to take passwords and other personal information that does not belong to them. They know they have found a flaw and they knowingly use it to take something that they know they are not entitled to.

Welp (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604213)

I work as a slot mechanic at a casino that has about 700 of these Game King video poker consoles installed.

This particular option can be set by anyone who can open the machine, including our change ladies. There is no log and no way to tell except to go to each machine and check them individually.

I am going to have a very bad day when I get back to work tomorrow.

Re:Welp (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#43604283)

I am going to have a very bad day when I get back to work tomorrow.

Not if IGT has published a correction and it's been properly applied already.

Affected firmware levels are listed in the exhibit attached to the motion to dismiss linked in TFA.

no sympathy for the casino (3, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43604267)

As long as he didn't do anything but push the standard control buttons, I think he's entitled to whatever he can get.

If the casino thinks they're paying out too much, they can sue the maker of the video poker machine.

Versus humans (1)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | about a year ago | (#43604305)

If it had been a human dealer that repeatedly made mistakes, would it have been fraud?

The odds are generally "rigged" in the house's favor. Casinos that that anything that threatens their "entitlement" to be cheating.

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