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Best of John Robison
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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