Internal Failure Rates: Gaming Equipment Manufacturing Industry

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Internal Failure Rates: Gaming Equipment Manufacturing Industry 2

Our research of internal failure rates in the gaming equipment manufacturing industry, and slot machines and lottery machines in particular, has revealed a long series of errors which are mostly caused by software defects, including incorrect programming. To a lesser extent, display errors occur due to internal mechanical issues connected to the programming software. This leads us to believe that purely mechanical, internal errors are very rare. We have come across data suggesting the possibility of minor internal mechanical errors caused by external factors like heat, as has been the case with the Arizona Lottery machines described below.

Slot machine failures

  • Display errors are usually caused by a software malfunction.
  • Mechanical errors are considered to be electro-mechanical in nature and can also result in incorrectly displayed payout amounts.
  • Software malfunctions tend to display incorrectly high winnings, while mechanical malfunctions tend to display incorrectly low winnings or no winnings at all.
  • Software malfunctions can be caused by computer chip defects of the random number generator (RNG) which controls credit displays. If the symbols displayed don't match those generated by the random number generator (RNG), the resulting payout display is treated as erroneous.
  • An example of a mechanical defect is a jammed coin or bill acceptor, which can disconnect the hardware from the software and lead to a temporary shutdown and consecutive display errors.
  • A jammed coin acceptor on a slot machine in Las Vegas caused a display error showing a $463,895 jackpot in the year 2000.
  • In 1996, a player thought that he had won $1,800,000 because the slot machine cash door was not firmly locked causing a temporary system shutdown, followed by a reset and a payout display error.
  • The slot machine can stop the spinning reels causing a display error in cases where internal mechanical parts seem out of order. An instance in which the internal bill counter was not secured in place, caused the reel to stop and display a winning set.
  • Setting errors can be traced back to poor programming which, in turn, causes software failures. Slot machine manufacturers sometimes make mistakes in the settings as was the case with IGT and the Imperial Palace Casino. The settings errors resulted in maximum jackpot displays being much higher than the casino intended.
  • In 2011, the slot manufacturer Aristocrat had warned the Isle Casino of possible jackpot display errors recommending repair. Instead, a player was misled into thinking she had won $41,797,550.
  • The International Game Technology (IGT) is the largest slot machine manufacturer in the world. In 2009, a slot player at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino received an electric shock causing her to fall to the ground. She then sued Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and IGT Inc. for damages caused by IGT's slot machine malfunction.

Lottery machine failures

  • In 2017 the Arizona Lottery's random number generator (RNG) generated the same winning numbers multiple times which lead to an independent investigation by a forensic technology firm. It was concluded that the lottery machines suffered mechanical defects due to excessive heat.
  • In 2013, the Arizona Lottery machines had a programming error which prevented certain numbers to be drawn and greatly increased the winning odds for the majority of the players.
  • According to a New York Times article, a South Carolina Lottery machines' programming error produced an excessively large number of winning lottery tickets in 2017.

Research Strategy

To find internal failure rates of slot and lottery machines we have searched industry and news sites and have found numerous cases of slot machine players who did not receive their winnings due to malfunctions. The news sites and industry websites searched include Slashdot, Market Watch, Casino Vendors, Schneier, Casino Players Report, Tech Dirt, CNN Money, Chicago Tribune, Smokey Mountain News, Easy Vegas, Slots Mamma, CNET, Denver Post, CBS News, Pocono Record, LA Times and Washington Post. Below you will find a detailed list containing all sources and quotes.
Additionally, we searched slot and lottery machine manufacturers' individual websites for troubleshooting and support pages, as well as PDF parts and repair manuals, to no availability.
We have come across some PDF documents including the IGT2015 parts catalog by Suzahapp which offers replacement parts and repair kits but contains no information about defects or malfunctions.
Worldwide Gaming sells slot machine repair and service manuals on their website but otherwise provides no information on failure rates or related statistics.
In all of our search, the most technically detailed sources we have come across are the Lottery Post article about the Arizona Lottery machine failure and Michael Bluejay's Easy Vegas article about slot machine malfunctions.
Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "Engineering mistakes, while frustrating, seldom definitively alter the end user's life. Not so in Cripple Creek, Colorado — MaryAnn and Jim McMahon thought their money troubles were over when they hit an $11 million jackpot at a casino Tuesday. Before paying the jackpot, the Wildwood Casino turned the machine over to the Colorado Gaming Division for inspection. A glitch was found, aha! The Wildwood Casino blamed a slot machine malfunction for the $11 million jackpot. Total actually won by the McMahons? $1,627.82."
Quotes
  • "The Slot Machine market report presents the company profile, product specifications, capacity, production value, Contact Information of manufacturer and Slot Machine market shares for each company."
Quotes
  • "The more teams like Alex's make these mistakes expensive, the more they're getting fixed. But in the gambling industry, it seems that the ratio of expense incurred to fixes implemented is much higher than seen anywhere else. Casinos literally spend years losing millions of dollars before anybody updates a product, whether software or hardware, to fix even the simplest problems."
Quotes
  • "The Sphinx Wild slot Katrina was playing only offers a maximum jackpot worth $6,500, not $42 million. The game displayed “malfunction voids all pays and play” therefore the casino stood by their argument."
Quotes
  • "Apparently faulty slot machines that always seem to malfunction when someone wins big are becoming more popular at casinos -- and they're now not awarding larger sums. Last year, we wrote about two guys in Canada who thought they had won $209,000 using a slot machine, only to be told that they didn't win and it was all a computer glitch. Earlier this year there was a similar story of a man apparently not winning $102,000 at a new casino in Pennsylvania. In that case, the negative press coverage convinced the casino to pay up. The latest such case takes place at the Sandia Resort and Casino in New Mexico, where a guy was told that his $1.6 million slot machine win was actually a computer malfunction. He's suing, but he might not have much of a case -- especially since the casino is on an Indian reservation, and not subject to the US court system."
Quotes
  • "Katrina Bookman captured national attention last year when she played a "Sphinx Slot Machine" at Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York, and it appeared as though she'd won $43 million -- which would have been the largest jackpot ever won on the slots in U.S. history. She excitedly snapped a selfie with the screen, believing her life was forever changed. But when Bookman came to collect her prize, a casino worker told her she hadn't actually won anything and offered her nothing but a complimentary steak dinner and $2.25. Bookman's lawyer said she did not accept either the dinner or the $2.25. At the time, Resorts World spokesman Dan Bank apologized and told CNN that "casino personnel were able to determine that the figure displayed on the penny slot was the result of an obvious malfunction -- a fact later confirmed by the New York State Gaming Commission." The New York State Gaming Commission also said in August that the machine displayed a disclaimer stating, "Malfunctions void all pays and plays.""
Quotes
  • "McKee's daughter had invited her to sit down next to her to play the "Miss Kitty" slot machine. At one point after playing 25 cents, the machine's video screen indicated her win was 185 credits, or $1.85. But it also displayed a notice of a "bonus award" of almost $41.8 million. McKee and her daughter summoned an attendant, and an employee opened the slot machine's main door to clean the central processor. The supervisor photographed the display, and a slot technician restarted the game. The Gaming Commission conducted its own investigation through a testing laboratory, which concluded that the machine's hardware erroneously awarded the bonus, the suit said. The manufacturer of the game, Aristocrat Technologies, had previously issued a bulletin that the game might show an erroneous bonus, with a recommendation to casinos to disable the bonus option."
Quotes
  • "A slot machine at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino malfunctioned, delivering a shock that floored a gambler, according to a lawsuit brought by the victim. While the incident occurred over three years ago, Willie Jean Robinson is still waiting to hear whether she can collect civil damages over the bizarre personal injury case. Robinson is suing Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and IGT Inc. –– the manufacturer of the slot machines –– for damages related to her injuries. The case stems from an incident that occurred in March 2006 when Robinson was playing a slot machine at the casino and allegedly received a shock that injured her right hand and left her with lasting loss of feeling in her fingers."
Quotes
  • "There are generally two types of malfunctions that make players think they won: With video slots, the machine shows a huge number of credits won, even though the player didn't land the jackpot symbols on the payline. With electromechanical slots (with physical reels), the reels can accidentally land on symbols other than what the computer actually chose."
Quotes
  • "Veronica Castillo had a grand total of five minutes to revel in her $8 million slots jackpot…then she got the bad news. Officials at the Lucky Eagle Casino, located in Portland, Oregon, informed Castillo that her jackpot was the result of a machine malfunction. They claim that the game she was playing, Jurassic Riches, only pays out a maximum of $20,000. And the prize that she earned was allegedly only worth $80."
Quotes
  • "A man in Austria plays a casino slot machine that tells him he has won almost $58 million. When he asks for his payout, the casino offers him $100 and a free meal. Merlaku's lawyers told the Mail: "There was no contemporaneous independent assessment of the claimed error, and no opportunity has since been afforded by the company for the machine software to be analyzed, other than by Atronic, a supplier to it of jackpot controllers.""
Quotes
  • "The correct prize for an apparent $42.9 million slot machine jackpot that a Thornton woman hit at a Central City casino should have been $20.18, Colorado gaming regulators said today. The errant jackpot appeared on a “Price is Right” penny slot at Fortune Valley Hotel & Casino on March 26 after Louise Chavez made a minimum bet of 40 cents. The Colorado Division of Gaming’s forensic investigation found that the slot machine malfunctioned and displayed the wrong payout because of errors in “mathematical calculations built into the game software.”"
Quotes
  • "But the casino says Seebeck's good fortune was a mistake -- a machine malfunction -- and is refusing to pay. Can you say "call my lawyer?" Seebeck, a Daytona Beach, Fla., resident, says he'd been gambling at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, playing for a half hour on the Bally Ultimate Party Spin Slot machine. At $4 a game he'd dropped about eighty bucks before the lights started flashing and bells started ringing. The display flashed an unbelievable winning number: $166,666,666.65. Casino managers immediately came over and roped off the machine. Seebeck spent the next hour planning what to do with his winnings, but the casino had other plans. Seebeck was told that the Ultimate Party Spin machine had spun out of control."
Quotes
  • "The former proprietor of Pepitone’s Meat and Sausage Market in Canadensis and Wind Gap has gone to court in Nevada to collect a $463,895 jackpot he says he won at Arizona Charlie’s in Las Vegas, his home since leaving the Poconos in 1997. Arizona Charlie’s management refuses to acknowledge the jackpot, even though Pepitone’s slot machine lined up four Nevada Nickel symbols, and jackpot bells began ringing wildly. Casino officials contend the machine malfunctioned, and Pepitone — a cousin of former New York Yankee Joe Pepitone — can’t have a dime. Since Oct., 23, 1997, when his delight turned to frustration, Pepitone has been fighting back in the courts of law and the public opinion."
Quotes
  • "Cengiz “Gene” Sengel thought he did it on Sept. 21, 1996, when he lit up a one-armed bandit with three jackpot symbols at the Silver Legacy Hotel & Casino. Nearly three years later, he’s still fighting the slot maker for the $1.8-million payoff--the first legal battle of its kind to go all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court. “It was supposed to be a dream come true,” said Sengel, who took a wrong turn at Lake Tahoe and ended up in downtown Reno with $20 worth of quarters in his pocket on that fateful night."
Quotes
  • "The investigation found that the machine initially taken out of service in October, 2017, was physically broken. The RNG computers rely on a physical device that measures the decay of radioactive material in order to create a random "seed value" from which the winning numbers are then generated. That physical device apparently overheated and broke, causing the seed value to always be a zero value."