Ever since slot machines were invented over a hundred years ago, certain segments of the population have tried to find ways to cheat the machines. Over the years the technology of the “one-armed bandit” changed but scammers’ focus on using the machines for their own nefarious purposes did not.
Some of the scams were crude but others were complex and involved detailed knowledge of the machines and of the people who operated them.
Our Cash slots casino takes you on a journey of discovery to find out more about slot machine cheating through the years.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Tommy Glenn Carmichael used his skills as a TV repairman and a tool called a top-down joint to cheat casinos around the country of millions of dollars over the course of several decades. He worked slot machines for years and after being caught and serving a stint in prison he moved on to conquering the new poker video machines, He used a “Monkey Paw” or “Slider” which he would insert into the payment channel which triggered the micro-machine switch to release coins.
As the anti-cheating technology progressed Carmichael created “The Light Wand” which could blind the slot machine’s optical sensors, rendering it incapable of calculating the number of coins that were deposited into the machine. By using a mechanism that prevented the machine from determining how much to pay the player, it was possible to force the machine to overpay.
Over time, Carmichael and a gang that he assembled were taking home over $5 million each day. Eventually, the authorities caught up with the group and slot machine makers were forced to produce a new machine called Ticket In/Ticket Out that “pays out” in a ticket which can then be redeemed at the casino’s cash box for money.
Carmichael’s next conquest was to figure out a way to outsmart the Ticket In/Ticket Out machine. He created a device called “The Tongue” which would be inserted into the machine and used to block the serial lights that would act as a calculator, resulting in the machine issuing tickets worth hundreds of dollars.
Carmichael continued to operate until 1996 and, in the end, served only an additional year in prison.
Ronald Dale Harris
Ronald Dale Harris was a relatively recent slot machine cheat who used his position as a computer programmer with the Nevada Gaming Control Board to program specific machines to make large payouts when a specific number and sequence of coins were inserted.
Harris was responsible for identifying flaws in the software that ran computerized casino games for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. His access to source codes allowed him to modify selected machines so that, when a specific number of coins was inserted in a specific sequence, the machine would record it as a win and pay out. For two years, from 1993 to 1995 Harris and an accomplice would go to Vegas casinos to play slots and they would inevitably win.
Harris’s scam was detected when he developed a program for the Keno game that would determine which numbers the game’s Random Number Generator would select. Harris’s accomplice used the scam in a New Jersey casino and suspicious casino security officials triggered an investigation that ended Harris’s career.
Years ago, slot machines’ technology involved the use of a light sensor that alerted the machine that a coin had been inserted. The machine would then operate normally and, when winning paylines occurred, would pay out on the wins – even though no real coin had been inserted in the machine.
Cheaters would insert a shaved coin at the same time as some other coin-like object that matched the size and shape of the required stake coin. The machine would play and would return the shaved coin.
Fake coins were also used over the years. The last known fake coin cheater was Louis Colavecchio who was using counterfeit money as recently as 2006 to scam casinos. Colavecchio “The Coin” manufactured slot machine coins which were inserted into the slot machines and allowed him and his associates to play for real money and collect the prizes on their wins.
The scam was crude but it did work for a short period of time, until casinos started to notice that, when the machines were emptied, coins that weren’t legal were being pulled out. After a stint in prison Colavecchio tried to counterfeit 100 dollar bills and he was sent back to prison for his efforts.
Another coin scam involved a string that was attached to the coin. When the game started, the string would be used to pull the coin back out and the game would progress as usual. This became known as the “yo-yo scam.”
When slot machines were made with metal, cheaters would use a magnet to control the spin so that the reels would stop spinning when a winning combination appeared.
Computer Chip Replacement
Dennis Nikrasch was a former locksmith who is believed to have taken in more than $16 million over a 22-year period between 1976 and 1998. By using a magnet and locksmith tools he accessed the computer chips in slot machines and re-programmed them so that they would pay out jackpot prizes. Nikrasch accessed the slot machine keys of multiple machines and switched independent chips for manipulated chips to collect payouts.