For as long as there's been gambling, there has been cheats trying to get one up on the casinos.
From magnets under roulette tables to loaded dice at the craps games, if there's money to be won, someone will try to cut corners.
Slot machines are not immune to scammers, and though electronic machines produced today are far harder to hack into slots history is littered with people who've given it a damn good try.
Is Cheating On Slots Possible?
If something can be designed, then it can be altered too. Every machine in a casino has to be manufactured somewhere, and so simply interfering with the mechanisms before they leave the factory floor is the most effective way of cheating.
Security at online casinos is tight, and games are audited before they hit the virtual casino 'floors'. Any irregularities with RTPs or jackpots are quickly spotted and rectified.
In the live arena, however, it's far easier to tamper.
History is littered with cases of cheats using coat hangers to interfere with machines' inner mechanisms, or 'monkey paws' which were inserted into machines to trigger the coin counter mechanism and make the machine dish out more money than it should have done.
'Shaved coins', meanwhile, are regular coins with a slight edge taken off. The slot machine's optic sensor was tricked into thinking it was a regular coin but it would spit it out as a duff one once it passed through the machine. Therefore, cheats could continue playing a slot with a series of fake coins until the big jackpots hit.
Famous Cheating Cases
If you thought intercepting a slot machine at the factory and tampering with the insides before it hits the casino is tricky, think again.
Take the case of Ronald Dale Harris. A quiet computer programmer living in Nevada, Harris abused his position at the Nevada Gaming Control Board to hack into slot machines' source code in the 1990s and make them pay out more often.
Harris then employed an accomplice, Reid Errol McNeal, to visit casinos in person and fleece the machines for thousands of dollars.
Harris got greedy, however, developing his skills to beat the Keno games in Atlantic City. Both he and McNeal were caught and Harris sent to prison for seven years for fraud.
Dennis Nikrasch went one better, though; he made his own slot machine at home to practice cheating on before hitting the American casinos. Nikrasch embezzled $10 million from video slot machines by buying up slots computer chips (totally legally, apparently), reprogramming them, then fitting them secretly into the backs of machines on the casino floor.
America's biggest ever slots cheat was caught in 1986 and it turned out he'd been scamming casinos in Las Vegas for years. Nikrasch was jailed for five years, but was caught yet again in 1998 on further charges of cheating.
Fashioning 'fake coins' isn't a new method of cheating, but that didn't stop Louis "The Coin" Colavecchio, who made his own coins at a private mint in Rhode Island. "The Coin" scammed several casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from slot machines until he was arrested and sent to prison in 1998.
How Casinos Protect From Slots Cheats
The case of Louis Colavecchio showed casinos that they couldn't pay out in real cash any more. Slowly, casinos started to phase out tokens and coins and replaced them with vouchers which are printed out by the slot machines and exchanged for money at the cash desk.
If you're caught cheating in Las Vegas, you can now expect a $10,000 fine and a possible prison sentence of up to six years. That alone should stop most cheats trying to scam the casinos.
Big casinos the world over are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance gear to spot anyone tampering with machines. But it hasn't stopped everyone tampering.
In 2014, four Russian men were caught cheating on slots at casinos in Missouri, USA.
The men were accused of using electronic devices to connect with servers abroad and predict the machines' future payouts (in this case, specific Aristocrat slots). The men had apparently travelled across America scamming machines for years.
Play Safe Slots Online Today
Today's slot machines are rigorously tested and checked to ensure against fraud. Despite the best attempts at second-guessing the servers or hacking into machines, online slots players can play safe in the knowledge that millions of slots spins are safe and audited.
The leading online casinos use the best encryption and security firewalls to prevent tampering. Stories like 2001's Cryptologic hack when the RTPs on games like Rags to Riches were altered are thankfully few and far between.