More Casinos Realize They Can Blame Software Glitch And Not Pay Out Big Prizes

from the sneaky,-sneaky dept

Last summer, we suggested a new business model for casinos, after hearing the story of one casino blaming a software glitch in order to not pay out a jackpot a player had supposedly won. In that case, the guy was supposedly hiring a lawyer, but we haven’t heard an update. However, it appears that others are picking up on the trick. A new casino in Pennsylvania had a slot machine tell a player that he had won $102,000, supposedly “the big jackpot” of the day. Various casino staff came up and congratulated him, until someone else came over and offered him two free meal coupons, saying that the jackpot message (which even stated his name) was a software glitch on their internal computer system, and was due to some internal testing that never should have reached the actual machine. Specifically, they claim it was “a communications error.” The article does note that the slot machines have a disclaimer that the casino is not liable for machine malfunctions, but there are questions about whether or not that covers this situation, since it wasn’t technically the slot machine that malfunctioned, but the casino’s computer system. Either way, it seems pretty sleazy, and probably isn’t particularly good publicity for a new casino trying to drum up business. Update: Apparently the casino has changed its mind, recognizing the bad publicity the original story caused. The casino claims that their investigation turned up that the error was a human error, not a machine glitch, and therefore they paid up.

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Comments on “More Casinos Realize They Can Blame Software Glitch And Not Pay Out Big Prizes”

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Rollem says:

Re: Re: dang

Paying the taxes for somebody’s winnings brings up and interesting issue. In such a case, the winner would then have to pay taxes on the money issued to him to pay the taxes. The casino could then pay those taxes owed, as well, which would cause the cycle to turn once more. Eventually, a casino could keep paying the smaller and smaller taxes until the man comes out with exactly $102K with no money owed to the govt, but it’s quite a bit more than the original taxes owed.

Michael Brutsch (profile) says:

As a programmer for 28 years

I can assure you, by the time the “independent gaming commission” sees the “evidence” provided by the casino, it will be a software glitch. If these scams continue to hold up under scrutiny, it will become a standard feature of casino software to auto-generate a ‘glitch’ whenever the big payoff happens. That won’t keep determined gamblers from gambling, since most people lose most of the time anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As a programmer for 28 years

I see you don’t work in the casino industry. As an IT team member for a major casino corporation with locations in PA (though not the one in this article) I can assure you that the PGCB will side with the patron if at all possible. The gaming commissions in various jurisdictions are there for just this very reason. Their whole purpose is to protect the patron’s interests via casino regulation, employee licensing, dispute resolution, etc.

DalGoda says:

Glitch or No Glitch

Even if it is a glitch they ought to make it up to the fellow. The machine said he won, and they claim he didn’t. Would make me wonder how many times the system may have changed a winner into a loser.

Either way, it’s bad customer service and horrible publicity. It would be worth it for them to pay the full amount or more, just to keep the issue quiet. Now people will look at that place with a little more skepticism.

Buzz (profile) says:


Anytime there is a glitch in the system, it’s supposed to favor the customer. I work in retail right now. Anytime there is a glitch (whether it’s a computer reporting an incorrect price or a human misinforming the customer), the customer gets the better deal. We simply accept the loss and fix the problem. Granted, casinos are different from retail, and there is far more money on the line. Regardless, pulling the glitches excuse is rather fishy. Considering how much money casinos reel in, they should accept the loss and learn their lesson. It’s not the customer’s fault that the company failed to adhere to all software protocols in terms of releasing it. 🙁

bryan says:

Re: Uncool

This isn’t retail, and it is highly regulated. It is stated that all errors void pays…therefore…it favors that casino.

I can’t speak to the actual error, but I can tell you even in retail, they do not honor typo’s in advertising. I seem to remember an add for 2 or 4 gig usb thumb drives for about $20, and the retailer canceled all the orders stating the add was due to a typo.

Had this happened in Las Vegas instead of Pennsylvania, the casino probably would have done a better job compensating the player than a free buffet (as there are MANY other choices of casinos he could take his business to).

It is sad this man feels cheated. However, I guarantee this was not a casino not wanting to a pay a legitimate winner. This definitely was an error, but I can’t speak to what type of an error.

Allison fisher says:

Re: It's worth paying

My husband won a 2012 Lexus or $35k and never saw a penny. Casino said we were 2 minutes late getting to desk. We had to go by an employee wearing a watch. His name as a winner was still on all the TVs and they hadn’t called another name yet. That casino stole our winnings. It was horrible. Sugarhouse is a scam.

Mike says:


I am going with it was either a terrible glitch or human error. Anyone that works near or in the business of Gaming (Lottery/Gaming/etc) knows that the gaming commission runs an extremely tight ship when it comes following regulations. There are no scams.
The casino does not design, manufacture or distribute slot machines in anyway. What is going to happen is the manufacturer of the machine AND communication protocol will get their asses handed to them and if it was human error, there will be repercussions I am sure.

Now not awarding the man his money is extremely bad PR and probably a bad decision on their part but this is hardly a scam.

-Works in gaming field.

Buzz (profile) says:


I believe you, Mike. I don’t think any of us are calling you a liar. However, it’s really shady to claim it was a computer glitch. Even if the company is 100% honest, this customer becomes highly elated only to have the workers come tell him, “Um, the screen lied to you. It was a glitch in the software.” So, what now? The company is honest but now has a reputation for glitchy software.

Mike says:


Agreed with there Buzz. In my opinion, they should have paid out and let the **** roll downhill. This would have kept their image.

I believe this was a peripheral attached to the machine that is completely separate from the slot machine. I am almost guessing someone accidentally sent a progressive win command for that particular card player and then went “oops!”.
If it wasn’t that, then possibly an error in the host communication software…but that is really hard swallow because that is the WORST case scenario. Any decent designer tests against that exact scenario…otherwise the casino wouldn’t purchase software that company.

Trouble Maker says:

two cents worth

ehr…I thought that each Slot Machine was a stand alone. Each one is independent and that they are not centrally controlled. This has been a well known fact in “Gaming” when has this changed? If it is as they claim, doesn’t that indicate that they may put a computer controlled braking device on the Roulette Wheel, under the claim that “it controls payout”

Bottom line, It is a game of chance, or isn’t it?

Ernie (user link) says:

Re: two cents worth

Slot machines are not standalone anymore. Machines with “Progressive Jackpot” are linked in with many other machines, sometimes nationwide. This software error can happen if a machine in Boise Idaho AND a machine in Stanford CT both hit at around the same time. In that case, machine A reports the win and then transmits it back to the central server, while machine B reports the win and transmits it back to the central server also. The first one to the gate wins, but BOTH tell the player that they’ve won. This is why EVERY slot machine says that jackpots must be confirmed by casino staff.

Even non-progressive machines are linked now, as they not only report big payouts (the payout decision IS standalone on that machine), but report how much $$$ you’ve put into the machine. That is the whole POINT of player cards.

The thing that most people don’t understand about the casino biz is that the casino has ZERO interest in fixing the results. They win anyway. They don’t care how much you’ve won (or more likely lost) as an individual, they know that as an organization, they have won.

To explain: Assume you have a casino with nothing but blackjack tables. 5000 of them, $5/hand. $5*0.0062 = 3.1 cents (assuming dealer hit a 17), or $155 / hour for those tables. The casinos generally run 24hr/day, so those tables will make at LEAST $3720/day. AND THOSE ARE THE BEST ODDS IN THE CASINO!

pat oconnell says:

Re: two cents worth

About 8 years ago, the Wall st. Journal had an article that contained many stories like this happening around the country. People were told the machine wasn’t supposed to pay off, but most sued and won. If you play slots as much as I do, you will notice the number of times the jackpot shows up on the line above or below the payline, or the third item to need ed to win stops on the line above. I think the random number generator is a lot of crap based on the above observations. The machines are more than programmed tp make a certain payout and I believe they can be made hot or cold at will and that most days you have no chance of winning.

frankthetank says:

The software glitched, and we don’t owe you money. The software glitched and you owe me money.

I wonder if i can rack up a huge debt to a casino, then say, hey it was a glitch that i got the money, you lose. doubt it.

typically each slot machine is in control of it’s own payout, howeveer those attached to a progressive system not only have individual control, but have input/output on progressive systems. unfortunately i’m not sure of the inner workings of the programming for such machines (although i bet it’s amazingly cool)

plus there is no real “randomization” in computer programs. sure there are a vast number of possibilites, but at one point, they will repeat. the fact that someone programs an algorithm means there’s logic behind the function (see Pseudorandom number generator on wikipedia) so, it is possible to “predict and control” the outcome of the machines. you’ve seen the slots that say 98% payout, 99.9%, 99.9999% payout even the 101.2% payouts. the idea is that these payouts occour over a long period of time, so the casion has time to profit off the gambling money, i.e. earns 105% before paying out the 101.2% thus netting the casino 3.8% but you get the drift

Mike says:

More info on progressives

More light on the situation here.

Not all progressives(those big jackpot meters on top of those video slot machines) are stand alone(independent from other jackpots). In fact, a lot of progressives are linked. Especially the WOF games.

These linked progressives are controlled by a host system…sometimes the host systems are not manufactured by the same company that made the machine. In that case, the machine didn’t glitch, it may have been that host system…(or human error where it was manually triggered on accident.)

Still, in the long run, the coverage on this is pretty terrible. They aren’t naming any names, just the casino involved.

will (user link) says:

this same thing happened in Argentina 3 months ago

it was in a slot machine. the big jackpot was 35,600,000 but the casino said it was machine malfunction and only wanted to pay 35,600.
obviously no slot machine will give away such a big jackpot.. but… who’s fault.. theirs or ours?

malfunctions only appears to pop up when is in the customer’s favor.

you can read this, if you read spanish

Patrick says:

Surely then...

Seems to me that if there have been false-wins due to software glitches there would also be false losses due to computer glitches.

Has the casino ever approached a customer and said, “here’s your jackpot, the software incorrectly reported a losing pull, but it should have reported a win.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that you could determine a falsely reported win was due to a software glitch in a short period of time and simultaneously be unaware of any problems with the software.

Michael says:


Is it possible that a software glitch kept a rightful winner at another machine from winning? It a glitch can tell one player that they wrongfully won, it can just as easily tell a rightful winner that they wrongfully lost. There should be no faith in such a system. The casino, it’s mistake, should pay up. Otherwise, players should find another casino owned by another group. The player should be paid. If I were on that jury, I’d award tripple damages for bad faith.

Atash (user link) says:

Psychology of gambling

Average humans seem to have a poor sense of odds, accuracy, and danger. Humans are apt to judge the safeness or danger of a situation by what happens to other humans. Oddly enough, dozens of people skating on thin ice has the paradoxical effect of making it seem SAFER despite the fact that all that weight makes it more dangerous!

The behavior is easy to see in stock markets; in this case the investment banks and brokers are the croupiers.

Advertisers for the casinos assume that average people have poor judgement regarding their own personal prospects when they see advertisements showing smiling people around the gaming tables cheerfully losing their money. The actors and actresses simply model the correct behaviors and attitudes, and the average person doesn’t rationally calculate their own personal probability of winning, or ask if ANYBODY is truly a net winner.

By the way, one of the most common and effective advertisements for gambling is the gambling scene in a movie. Hollywood-type movies are feature-length advertisements disguised as entertainment. So you have the suave, debonaire James Bond type character in a casino, maybe he wins, and then he gets the girl. Men who fancy themselves as being the “man about town” type will copy the behavior. They want to be Sean Connery. Modelling the behavior and making it look like the key to fulfilment of some kind is sufficient to get some people to actually engage in the target behavior. They influence their own friends, and it spreads.

The casinos have made it very clear that gambling is a form of “entertainment” and that they are under no legal obligation to make the games “fair”. They now have numerous and poorly-disclosed “cheats” to foil card-counters, for example. If someone has an extremely good memory he will be escorted from the premises by casino goons.

A long time ago, the casino owners noticed that the gambling impulse is not rational. One of the ways that gamblers lose is that they tend to have a compulsion to win back what they lost the same way that they lost it. Hence as strange as it may seem, the casino owners are not terribly worried about baiting the players with enough wins to keep them happy. An occassional paid actor or actress gleefully jumping up and down over an ostensible win, that is completely bogus, and being hugged by their attractive ostensible companion, is sufficient. The casino owners like to maximize their haul.

These people hire behavioral psychologists to advise them on priming their suckers. They know what they are doing.

Oddly enougn, yet another trick is to sponsor “responsible vice” messages. The casino owners actually pay for advertising about “knowing your limits”. The reason is that it subtly suggests that there is such a thing as responsible vice–that it’s OK as long as you can (convince yourself that you can) “handle it”. This works like a charm especially on a lot of self-righteous types who are prone to parroting the moralisms of people in positions of power. It also has the effect of hopefully keeping the host solvent; the parasite doesn’t want to prematurely kill its host, but to maximize its haul over the useful lifetime of the host.


Sean Wilkinson says:

This is my Father.

Yeah this is my father this happened to. What he one wasn’t the actual slot machine. There was ths “player power jackpot” witch was a promo to get people in the casino. How it work was at random it picked a users casino card that was in the machine As the winner. What we think happened was he was really the winner. However some one type and extra zero or something and when they saw the figure on the screen they panicked. This is where they started to lie to him and tried to tell them there was another winner across the casino witch there wasn;t and they try to get him away from the machine to clear it to get rid of the evidence. So my dad not a unfair person if they admitted from the start this was a mistake in the jackpot amount and were willing to give him the actual jackpot he would of took it that night. but now with all the b/s that has gone on they just dug them selves a very very big hole.

Logical Thought says:

Whatever happened to business responsibility?

Excuse me, but I work in Information Technology, and I am calling BS on this casino. This is absolutely ridiculous. The business decides to use a certain system, the business is responsible for their own equipment functioning properly. If they have a software “glitch”, then they should eat the cost, not the customer. Furthermore, If someone is testing in that kind of enviornment, you cannot tell me that they were testing on a network segment that was directly connected to a production system, if they did, the CASINO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS ACCIDENT. If I’m driving a car, and my electronic anti-lock brake system fails and I crash into someone else, would an insurance company accept my excuse like “SORRY!!! It was a software glitch!!! I’m not responsible!!!!”

I’m hereby suggesting that ALL casino patrons discontinue the use of ANY electronically controlled device that is labeled anything anywhere near indicating that the casino is not liable for “something” related to a electronic malfunction. I sure as hell know I won’t use them.

Ronald Fleming says:

Casino's blame computer glitch

When one harbours the addiction of gambling, one must realize that gambling is designed signifiicantly for losers, not winners. Payouts are recovered very quickly and in some remote cases, can be tax deductable.
Here in Canada gambling is now legal and widespread throughout the country, but you must think politically correct on whether its beneficial to the population, because this same government declared gambling illegal when run by the mob.

Ronald Fleming says:

Casino's are regulated

Good point Anon and your comment further supports the truth of corruption that of course is evident in any organized factor that deals with enormous revenue.
After all, did not organized crime initiated by the Mafia design the gambling scenario for profits and isn’t it equally common knowledge that the mob was not eactly known for its fairness and honesty.
With governments now under the control of gambling revenues, would one assume that corruption would end?

Ronald Fleming says:

Gambling addictions

I am grateful I do not have a gambling problem, but I have immediate friends and associates that have serious addictions to VLT machines and organized casinos in Edmonton and area.
I used to play the lotto drives where they used the bingo ball machines with letters on them live on TV to correspond with the draw dates. When they removed those live draws, the lottery industry went electronic and therefore ceased to be honest and fair. With these electronic numbers, just like VLT’s and any computer motivated game, they can be programmed and reprogrammed to win or loose.
Because there are numerous winners who collect jackpots from these machines, the income overwelms any shortfall with payouts, believe it. Those machines are not programmed to win, but they are designed to create revenue and false hope.
Everytime I see security trucks hauling cash bags from casinos I just wonder how many families were torn apart, how many promising people were incarcerated because they turned to crime to support their addiction and most important, how many desperate souls are contemplating or have already ended their lives from out of control addictions to gambling.
Pretty pathetic when the government boasts about their enormous profits they generate from such vile crap.

Ronald Fleming says:

The mob did it

Setting up your own casino, if handled and organized properly can gaurantee a rich reward both financially and relatively security.
But there are also many disadvantages to them and not necessarily the fault of an owner, after-all it takes patrons in order for any service related business to survive, but to manage a casino, one must be able to control their conscience and feelings of compulsive gamblers.
You could not be a sincere person towards one that has gambled their life and family away, just as a person who deliberately does themselves harm or gets involved with criminal intentions.

There are ads on TV that are stressing the idea of gambling responsibly. Just like an alcoholic, or a drug addict, how can responsibilty ever play a part in a deliberate notion? An alcoholic, a smoker, a drug addict as well as a complusive gambler knows the risk everytime they endure their complusion.
And unfortunately the mob knew it, the government now knows it and gambling casino owners also know complusive everything goes beyond the norm, or the responsibilty level.
Isn’t that what profits are all about?

Patrick says:

There is no such thing as software glitch from testing.

Every code that is written, is compiled and signed digitally by the programmer.

It is then sent to another randomly selected programmer, in another city which will look at the source code, make sure nothing wrong with it and again compiled and signed it digitally.

It goes through a third randomly selected programmer who will do exactly the same thing.

Each line of codes is checked and tested by 3 different programmers. Not one programmer will write the whole codes.

If there is such a glitch they would have to recall the machines (not one machine only).

The casino is just trying to cheat the guy by trying to intimidate him.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t understand how it isn’t considered theft when casinos have machines with $10 spins, yet one can put in $2400 and get one bonus round, finally, with a low payout and few others throughout the games and very few credits. Penny machines can take a thousand dollars and a bonus round may never show up. I watched a person put in $1200 and get nothing – and another put $2400 in a 5 cent machine with a 240 credit payout after all that time. The speed of the machines, the number of rows and high cost for maximum bets are bad, but I think the casinos have changed all so that few bonus rounds come up so people keep playing. I lost so much on the jumping out Inca, Wizard, and other Inca type machines that I am going to ban myself from the casinos. Why do machines pay out all at one time and then not at all? How can so few win and why when thousands are being put in are most payments $160 to $300? I don’t believe it is random. I think it is fixed re. times and payouts, when they will be, and that the bonus rounds have been turned down so people keep trying to get one to get some money back. How can expensive machines pay so rarely? I can’t believe I ever went, but I have definitely learned that addiction can affect anyone – and that the casinos don’t pay high enough payouts often enough for what is being put in. Who really watches what is happening or what is happening to so many?

Mike says:

Casino's not paying off due to technical glitch

This exact thing has happened to me twice at French Lick Casino in Indiana. The first time the machine malfunctioned, I was told they couldn’t pay off because I didn’t tell anyone immediately and kept playing till someone came. The last time, I stopped playing and had four witnesses that the fishing game should have paid off %$580 because I was max. betting. It had to be on film. Well, the pit boss said he couldn’t pay off and just walked away. I asked him again about it and checking the tape and he said I probably hit the button wrong (like I’m some idiot)and said the witnesses (which I didn’t even know) didn’t matter. He lost several customers for life, but there should be some regulation. People can’t afford to take their own losses and then when they finally should have won allow the casino to cheat them out of that too. Those are no odds. I tell everyone, because it was so unfair, and it has happened to several other people at the same game. Why doesn’t someone check into this?

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