Top 7 Methods Used by Slot Machine Crooks

Woman Playing a Slot Machine on Left and a Man Looking Into the Camera On Left

One thing that’s been around the casinos almost as long as the slot machines are the crooks trying to beat the casino by manipulating the games. Greed is a powerful motivator, and it sends many wannabe casino gamblers over the edge to criminal activity.

Cheating in the casino is never a good idea for a ton of reasons. The most glaring is the felony, which brings a tremendous amount of court fines and a lengthy prison sentence.

Despite the illegal and illicit nature of their activities, the creativity and ingenuity of the casino cheats deserve recognition. So, let’s look at the inventive ways some casino guests have turned the tables on the casino and placed the odds directly in their favor.

Before I get into the top 7 methods used by slot machine crooks, I want to clarify that I don’t advocate or condone any of the following practices. Still, it can give us a unique perspective on the most popular casino games in the U.S.

1 – The Swoop In

It may not surprise you to discover that people will attempt to take advantage of others given the slightest opportunity. Many of these people will congregate in high-traffic areas to more easily blend in with their surroundings.

Tourists seem like easy marks to these crooks because they are often from lower-crime areas, so their guard may be down. The casinos clearly have a lot of tourist traffic, so thieves will target casinos to make a quick buck.

Casino security is top-notch, and the days of pickpockets fleecing the casino gamblers are mainly behind us. Still, you’ll always have a criminal element where you have people and money.

The swoop in is merely when another player will hop on a slot machine where a player has left funds available. As in ultimately left the casino and not off to the bathroom.

It may seem harmless to hop on and use these funds to make a few spins, but the casinos disagree. Every year the casinos across the United States charge players with stealing from the casino.

So, that $3 on the penny slots will wind up costing you in the thousands in fines and court costs. Not to mention you’ll spend time on probation.

It may seem trivial, but the casinos claim all abandoned or unclaimed money. Try sneaking a few bucks under the radar, and you may pay a hefty price.

2 – Installing a Cheat Button

Modern slot machines are little more than a computer paired with a random number generator. The RNGs keep the results completely random and prevent many of the thieves from cheating the machines.

However, suppose you’re the engineer tasked with designing and installing the software on these machines. In that case, there must be some big temptation to program a cheat code.

Row of Casino Slot Machines

That’s precisely what happened when Ronald Harris, who worked for the Nevada Gaming Commission, went to cheating the system with a partner. The RNGs were bypassed by performing a particular set of actions on the game, and wins were triggered.

These cheat codes allowed the duo to fly under the radar for years. Eventually, the pair were discovered, and severe legal implications ensued.

3 – Kid’s Play

Looking back on slot machine crooks, the first method that came to mind was the yo-yo. I’m sure I must’ve seen this on television at some point and assumed it was the primary method used by casino criminals.

The yo-yo works by fooling the machine into believing you’ve inserted a coin. A coin has been inserted, but it’s attached to a string.

So, as soon as the machine is triggered, the crook pulls the coin back. The antiquated method resembled the action of a yo-yo and was quite adequate for years.

However, the advent of the CPU and a shift to digital games have rendered the tactic irrelevant.

4 – Funny Money

Crooks and counterfeiters have spent years coming up with ways to cheat the casinos. Many of these methods have revolved around real money slot machines.

If you’re able to get the drop on the casino, these methods can be highly lucrative. By using counterfeit cash or coins, the idea isn’t necessary to use the money to beat the slot machines.

Losing funny money isn’t any more profitable than losing your hard-earned cash. Yet, that’s not the main goal for many of these bandits.

Sure, winning a massive progressive jackpot can set you up for life. Unfortunately, for the honest gamblers among us, that’s an astronomical long shot.

Why not take the sure thing?

Criminals will build up a sizable bank by fooling the machine and merely cash out. This is far more efficient than trying to win money playing slot machines.

Shaved coins, counterfeit bills, and bill validators are all popular methods used by casino crooks. Luckily, the eye in the sky is constantly watching, and few get away without harsh penalties.

5 – Blinded by the Light….Wand

The Al Capone of slot machine thieves is a man named Tom Carmichael. Carmichael developed a way to temporarily blind a machine using an apparatus called the light wand.

The device would confuse the sensors on a slot machine and turn small wins into massive payouts. Slot machines use their RNGs and a predetermined return to the player to ensure a fair and steady payout.

By confusing the machine in such a manner, the devices wouldn’t know when or how much to pay. Erring on the side of caution, the machines would award Tom massive jackpots at his command.

Row of Casino Slot Machines

Carmichael had developed a way to print his own money. He won millions from casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

On a bright note, Carmichael now spends his time developing anti-cheating devices for the casinos.

6 – Crack the Pattern Through Surveillance

The term random number generator is a little misleading. The machines still rely on humans to program sequences and series into the programming.

So, slot machines can never be truly random. That’s not a massive problem because the skill required to crack the pattern is far beyond the scope of possibility for a vast majority of people.

However, through an elaborate system of high-tech cameras and wizardly mathematical talent, they can be broken. By knowing when the machines were most likely to pay, a team was able to spin the reels at precisely the right time and maximize their slot machine profits.

Because this system never manipulated the games in any way, many don’t consider it as cheating. Still, exploiting a known flaw in the slot machines isn’t advisable.

Should you ever have to face off in court over the legitimacy of your winnings, the casino has a winning history. Amazingly, the savant that created this method for beating the casino was never caught.

7 – Use the Tools of the Trade

Crooks are so dangerous to the casino because they’re incredible at creating creative new tactics to make a buck. There’s no doubt that if they put their scheming ways to something of a more upstanding nature, they’d undoubtedly be incredibly successful.

The devices used throughout the years have come in various ways, and each has been cleverer than the last.

Carmichael didn’t stop with his brilliant light wand technique. He developed a contraption that would trigger the coin hopper when thrust into the air vent of a machine.

He could then slide the guitar string and metal rod into a machine and enjoy the flow of coins in a few seconds.

New Zealand Electronic Casino Games

Another tool of the trade involved sliding a device into the coin slot and the coin dispenser simultaneously. This piece of equipment would trigger a cascade of all the coins in a machine.

It wasn’t the cleanest method for stealing from the casino, but certainly, it was effective.

Why Cheaters Never Win

I don’t know; maybe cheaters do win. At least in the short term, the sudden influx of free money must feel like winning.

Still, it seems like there would always be this gnawing in the back of the mind that the money is tainted. I don’t know that I could pay for my daughter’s pre-school with the money I stole from anyone.

Then again, I’d never brazenly walk into a casino and start cheating the games. Perhaps the crooks justify their actions as some sort of Robin Hood act.

Regardless, it seems that all these crime sprees eventually come to an end. When they do, you’re looking at some severe penalties from state and federal authorities.

Being banned from the casinos for a year or more seems like a good enough deterrent for any would-be thieves. If that doesn’t get your attention, the possible felony conviction should be enough to stop your plans in their tracks.

Crime rarely pays in the long term, and the risks aren’t worth the rewards.

Our Final Thoughts on These Cheating Methods

The top 7 methods used by slot machine crooks are full of ingenuity and show some genuine flair. That’s enough to thrill many of these thieves, I’m sure.

However, if you want to set out to beat the casino at their own game, try card counting. The element of danger is still there, but you won’t see the inside of jail if you’re busted.