Slot Machine Pays Out 10 Times Too Much – Is It Stealing?

by Ryan Guina

I was listening to the radio last night and I heard about a casino that lost almost $1 million because one of their slot machines had the incorrect software installed and automatically gave 10 credits for every dollar inserted. The slot machine should have only given 1 credit, and this error resulted in an automatic 10 fold win for the gambler without them even playing the slots. The casino lost a lot of money before the problem was discovered and reported – ironically, by honest patrons who alerted casino authorities.

I couldn’t find a reference for this most recent instance, but something very similar happened last summer when an Indiana slot machine gave 10 credits for 1. It seems as though there is a switch on he machines that compensates for other currencies. That flip of a switch and subsequent moving of the decimal cost the casino almost $500,000 before the problem was discovered and resolved.

On the radio last night, they mentioned the authorities were reviewing video from this most recent incident to identify the casino patrons who took the money without alerting the casino. They were going to arrest anyone they could accurately identify, and press charges for theft.

I am not familiar with gaming laws, but I’m not sure if they have a legal leg to stand on. The mistake was the casino’s (I’m sure someone lost their job on that one!), but was the casino patron breaking the law? Can the casino prove the gambler knew they were improperly receiving 10-1 on their money and didn’t think they won on a lucky pull of the slot machine? Maybe the gambler thought it was a promotional giveaway? Conversely, does the casino apologize or give back money they take from their patrons? No way!

Legalities aside, this does raise other issues:

Today’s ethics and money question: If a casino makes an error where their software incorrectly pays out 10-1 and the patron benefits from this and does not report it to the casino, is it stealing?

I think people can make a convincing argument for both sides.

  • Obviously, the right thing to do would be to alert a casino guard and not let anyone else use the machine until it was taken out of commission. This would save the casino thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and would probably net the patron a free night’s stay, or at least a buffet dinner. 🙂 (More importantly, the patron could leave with their conscience unscathed.)
  • The other argument is to take the money and run. Oh, and be smart about it, too… Don’t take too much or the casino would notice, and you would ruin a good thing! 😉

What would I do? I occasionally enjoy small stakes gambling for entertainment purposes. I don’t play slot machines unless it is to empty out the two or three quarters I have in my pocket. There are so many versions of the slots out there, I don’t think I would notice if my $0.25 turned into $2.50 and I would probably think I either won or it was a special promotion designed to get me to put more of my money into the machine. In that case, I would take the money and leave. It would be the same thing if I put$1 into a slot machine and it showed I had $20. I would probably think it was weird, but that I won. Then I would cash out and leave. I won’t put $20 into a slot machine, I only use them to clean out my loose change, which is exactly what the casinos like! 😉

Would I use the slot machine as a personal ATM? I don’t think so. If I saw others standing in line, putting in their money, getting their claim ticket, and leaving, I would know something was wrong and I would probably let someone know. Yeah, I guess I am a party-pooper! But, I don’t think I could stand there and watch a lot of people take the casino for hundred of thousands of dollars, and I don’t think I would have a clear conscience if I were to do that myself.

I’m interested to hear what others think.

Published or updated December 9, 2010.
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