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Hacking into Slot Machines

19 May 2008

By John Robison

I read your story on How Do They Get Machines to Hit Jackpots. I have to disagree with your logic about not being able to control the software on a machine. They are all run on a computer software program, which can be controlled/or changed by any programmer.

All software has what they call BACK DOORS and anyone that can hack into a computer can hack into a slot machine to control the payout of that machine.

When a slot machine is new it gives you the inter game more times, pays more often and pays better, after a week or so it tends to slow down on the pay and giving of the inter game.


Dear Lori,

In my 28 years of programming professionally, I have never written a program that has a back door.

It's true that slot machines are run by computer programs. It's also true that these are probably some of the most scrutinized programs written. Multiple testing labs inspect the code to ensure that it operates properly and that it can't be manipulated. The labs do such a good job that there's even a possibility that New Jersey's gaming device testing lab will test electronic voting machines to ensure that those machines count votes properly and that they can't be manipulated.

Furthermore, one of the reasons that downloadable game technology (in which the game program is sent down from a central server instead of being burned into EPROMs on the logic board) is taking so long to come to casino floors is that the slot regulators want to ensure that these programs cannot be altered in any way.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, unlike a PC, a slot machine has very limited communications ability.

Finally, I'm not saying that no one has ever hacked into a computer system, but it's not as easy as it appears on TV and in the movies. Perhaps you're a programmer yourself. How many systems have you hacked into?

As for machines paying less or hitting the bonus round less frequently after they've been on the slot floor for a while, it's just player perception due to selective memory or insufficient sample size. Casinos don't change the payback programs on machines after a certain period of time. Even locals casinos have a steady stream of players who haven't seen the game before, so how would the casino choose when to change the program?

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots