Are Casinos a Scam or Rigged? Here’s the Facts
If you’re planning to gamble online or at a land-based casino, it’s quite normal to have a few safety concerns and questions relating to whether the operator will provide fair and secure entertainment services. These jitters are not only common amongst new players, but many seasoned players have similar feelings each time they consider signing up with a new casino operator. After all, no player would like to join a private game at a land-based or online casino site, only to find that the operator or one of the players had an unfair advantage over others. This would take all the fun out of the activity and lead to frustration.
All players should be aware that the house or the operator will always get its share of the pot by now. This is a result of how the casino games are set and designed to ensure that operators will see profits eventually. However, in this article, we are covering more direct aspects.
We aim to give our players a comprehensive overview of what they can expect when they enter a land-based casino, or log onto one online, and choose a poker or slot machine. Below, our CasinoTop team has provided several examples of both live and online casino rigging that takes place with blacklisted operators. In addition, we have shared a breakdown of regulations and security measures that have been enforced to ensure that online poker players are privy to fair and safe gameplay.
Table of Contents
The Facts about Online Gambling and Rigging
Most players tend to forget that gambling operators are business owners and they too need to make a profit. Similar to all other businesses, the operator’s goal is to find a way to make a profit while ensuring that their customers are entertained and are willing to invest more time and money when they return. However, one of the key aspects of this business is that players need to feel that they are protected and safe. To instill even greater confidence in the gaming process, local and international gambling authorities have developed and enforced rules to ensure that games are operated legally and ethically.
Since the goal of online and land-based operators is to make a profit from their businesses, this has raised suspicions among players that gambling activities are rigged. This is especially worrying for players who just learn that not all casino games can be won each time you play. There are several popular theories among players that support this suspicion, with some taking into consideration the number of bad beats, the way certain games appear to be structured to encourage players to participate for longer and the variety of hands that can be dealt to increase the pot size and allow the operator to see a more significant cut.
land-based roulette games are easier to rig than online titles. If this game is rigged online, it is more than likely that the entire casino has been rigged and not just the roulette game in particular.
While some players accuse operators of structuring the games so that players never win, the hard reality of this business is that if the casino did not have an edge it would fail as a business. However, this advantage does not mean that the games are rigged. All casino games are designed with an element of randomness and some players might simply experience a bad luck streak. In this way, players should be mindful of making this accusation when the hands don’t feel random but there is no other indication that the game has been rigged.
This does not mean that there are no recorded instances of rigging. In 2013, Hi/Lo and Reel Deal Gambler were exposed for running coin-flipping games that were not providing players with fair chances. Despite the operator guaranteeing a 100% payout to participants, which would mean there was no house edge, the payout was only 96%.
There are certain games where players are more likely to be suspicious of rigging and poker is one of them. Many players feel that poker tables must be rigged to improve the casino’s profitability, such as in instances where higher-than-normal odds are attached to inexperienced players. Another concern for players is when advantage could potentially be given to favour the underdog during all-in situations.
There is a theory that states that odds that should decrease to 78-22 could be adjusted to reflect odds of 80-20. However, this type of rigging would be simple to identify. In such a case, the odds could be adjusted in favour of a certain player that requested the all-in, instead of the player who bet the all-in. This would also be far too easy for experts and players to detect. The last option is that hands that were not called for the all-in would have their odds adjusted to favour the player who requested the bet.
The consequences of all of these situations would be obvious. It would allow for a player to have access to insider information that would not otherwise be available to anyone at the table. A keen understanding of betting patterns and the game would make it possible for an observant player to pick up on this rigging if it were to take place.
There have been a rising number of allegations of operators allowing unseen players to join the table and pass information about the hands to an active player at the table.
All of this is not based purely on speculation and actually took place in 2007 during the Absolute Poker tournament. Observant players were baffled by the tournament winner’s playing choices and began an investigation that resulted in the uncovering of a scandal that had allowed for online players to be cheated out of $1 million.
Security and Rigging Preventions
If you’re looking to play online but you’re unsure whether the casino and operator that you’re keen on can be trusted, word of mouth will help you along. We suggest that you ask your loved ones and friends about a particular site to get an accurate, fair and honest review of the casino and its services. In the world of online gaming, a good reputation is vital to the success of the offering and players tend to choose sites that have received raving reviews from people they trust.
Audited by Authorities
It’s important for players to be aware that any online site that provides its services to the masses will undergo intense scrutiny. These sites and operators are constantly being audited, checked and tested by government and gaming authorities to ensure that the casino is providing fair, secure and randomized gaming. Online operators are aware that they will always be dealing with the government and 3rd party agencies to ensure that their offering is compliant with regulations and rules consistent with reputable casinos.
From an operator's perspective, PR can be something that makes or breaks the business in the long run. It is within the casinos best interest to boast big winners and life-changing jackpots being paid through their business. This leads to great PR and increases the chances of existing members talking positively about the site and operator to friends and family.
Independent Auditing and Testing
The trusted casinos should be undergoing independent auditing and testing to ensure that their games are fair and that the RNGs are functioning as they should.
Even more than traditional casino sites, online poker offerings have a higher chance of collision but there is no evidence to suggest that there are more instances of rigging taking place. Collusion is a term used to define the act of players communicating outside of the game, or site, to share information about their cards with their partners. This type of cheating is hard to monitor and has caused a moderate level of concern.
It is likely that the era of cheating schemes orchestrated by casino operators and super users is a thing of the past but we implore our players to always exercise a degree of caution and be on the lookout for any suspicious activities.
Documented Rigging Examples
Video Machine Rigging
There have been several instances in the past where video slots, bar gaming and video poker machines were altered in some way to benefit the operator or company that provided the machines more than was fair. The first recorded examples of this led to a handful of large gaming companies being exposed for rigging the machines. In some ways, this might not seem all that illegal and some were not surprised by the news. This influx of reports has been dubbed the Near Miss Scenario and involved a machine that was programmed to show players near miss, or an almost win.
For example, the machines would show turn about almost all of the winning symbols on a payline but the last symbol would land just before or after the payline. Players would then see this and believe that they just missed a huge payout, prompting them to keep hitting the same machine. Upon closer inspection of these reported machines, it was found that some machines resulted in the Near Miss scenario 1000 more times than an actual payout. If the games were truly random, this would be impossible. While this particular scenario only prompted players to play for a longer time and didn’t affect their chances of winning, this intentional programming of Near Misses has since been banned in the state of Nevada.
In another more direct example, this rigging activity affected the players’ chances. In the 80s, news in Nevada was made regarding peculiarities in slot gaming and video poker gaming machines in the state. A closer investigation into these discrepancies revealed that American Coin was at the root. The scandal represents Nevada’s largest organised rigging scheme in history to date. According to the records shared, American Coin had altered the chips that were put into the machines to ensure that players would not land a high-paying Keno jackpot or royal flush. This rigging had directly impacted the players’ chances of winning and resulted in over 1000 American Coin machines being seized, and the company was left to pay a hefty $1 million in fines.
As a direct result of the above mentioned scenarios, and a few others that didn’t make the news, the Nevada Gaming Control Board clamped down on operators and established set rules of specific regulations relating to video gaming machines in the region. These days, all games are inspected. Programming chips need to go through a process to be officially approved before they are put into machines and all casinos gaming machines are tamper-proof and under surveillance. Approved chips are permanently set into the motherboard to prevent any switching or alterations from being made. These changes have resulted in players in Nevada being able to play their favourite games with more confidence and the industry has better and more strict regulations in place.
Online Fraud and Rigging
As the new millennium rolled in, online poker experienced a boom. Card players were seen flocking to online poker sites from different countries. At this time, AbsolutePoker was at the forefront of generating revenue for its online poker offering and attracted many players with its daily tournaments and playing options. The Canadian-based company hosted a Hold’em Tournament in 2007 with a top payout of $30 000. There was nothing particularly strange or different about AbsolutePoker’s tournament at the time but a 21-year-old player, named Marco Johnson from Nevada, slowly began to notice that there were a few strange hands and play occurring at the final table. As a card player, Marco Johnson was prepared to encounter some random, strange and unexpected plays but the frequency at this particular tournament exceeded his expectations and he found it unjustifiable. He placed second in the tournament and then contacted the host company to request a printout of the history of his hands to determine what was off about the game.
Instead of AbsolutePoker providing data on just Marco’s hands, he received a large spreadsheet that outlined all of the hands that were played during the tournament as well as the participants that were logged in and the lineups for each table. Marco Johnson was initially overwhelmed and confused by the amount of data he received and then took a closer look. He made a shocking discovery after analyzing the data that revealed that the winner of the tournament had a history of making illogical plays. The winning player was playing under the name Potripper and displayed a trail of poor gaming decisions according to many different poker professionals and experts. The document that Marco received had come with the IP and email addresses of all participants and eventually, the suspected player’s success coincided at every table where a player named #363 was present. Other players were not able to see this player but he made an appearance to see the cards that everyone had in their hands. Potripper would unexpectedly fold before the flop before this invisible player appeared but would not fold if player #363 had been at the table.
The IP address could be tracked to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which serves as the server base that hosts AbsolutePoker. After digging even further into the user, the IP address of player #363 was found to belong to Scott Tom, the co-owner of AbsolutePoker. More shocking still was that Potripper’s IP address traced back to the former Director of AbsolutePoker’s operations, AJ Ripper. After the dust had settled and the numbers were crunched, it’s estimated that this rigging scheme had resulted in players having between $500,000 and $1,000,000 stolen by the company over the years.
Fairness and Security Online Measures
Considering the events of the past, players looking for a site they can trust to play poker at is not a big ask. One of the most important things when searching for the perfect site for poker is to consider the operator’s security history. The most popular and reputable poker sites available today have been licensed by trusted gaming authorities and bodies from all over the world, such as Malta, the UKGC and Gibraltar, and go the extra mile to establish strict gaming requirements and rules to ensure that all play is fair and above-board.
The requirements in place rely on the operator’s ability to invest in advancing RNGs and security features at their sites. These precaution and safety measures should be established and proven before a site can deal out its first poker game. The measures in place at an online poker and gaming site should be displayed on the homepage of the site and should provide true and correct information. Trusted sites will proudly display the licenses received from independent auditors or logos of these companies to ensure that players can conduct their own research to understand how secure the offering is.
Beyond research, there are other steps that players can take to ensure that the operator they’ve chosen is offering fair and secure gaming according to international and industry standards. Consider the reputation of the site by looking at reviews posted by other players. Make sure to check out other unrelated and unsponsored sites that provide fair and accurate reviews of online poker sites and casinos. It is vital that players accept that they have a responsibility to research and check how legit a site is before signing up and depositing their hard-earned cash. Taking the steps mentioned will be vital before you invest your energy, time and money into a site and operator.
In addition, you should also take a look at the security procedures and policies in place. Note if the site has posted its fairness and security statement and if they have, consider whether this information was hard to find and whether it’s comprehensive. If you find that the policy does not address all of your security concerns, reach out to the site administrator and note how quickly you get a response and whether you are satisfied with the answers.
In some cases, the security information that you’re looking for might not be posted on the site. In this case, we suggest that you reach out and request this information or simply choose a site that openly shares this information. From a security perspective, take a look at how the site accepts payments and ensure that the servers are being protected with sufficient security measures to protect you and your funds. If you still feel apprehensive about a particular site, we recommend that you listen to your gut feeling and only sign up with an operator that you feel comfortable with.
Fairness and Randomness Measures
Once you have completed your research and are satisfied that you’ve done your due diligence, you should make sure to check out the software in use at the site and whether the software provider has a reputation for providing fair play. Players would not consider buying in at land-based tables where there is a chance that the game wouldn’t be fair and this is exactly the same with online poker sites.
Over the years, there has been some concern about the frequency of bad beats when playing online. While players usually suspect rigging in these situations, this is not the only situation that should be considered. There are a handful of explanations that could shed some light on why these losses are so prominent. Online casino sites make use of Pseudo-Random Number Generators, often referred to as PRNGs, to produce pseudo results that mimic the hands that would be dealt in a live game. Naturally, poker hands move much faster when playing online and this speed could make it seem like there is a higher frequency of bad beats than is normal. Poker analysts and experts have shared that they believe this concern stems from a false impression that is thrown into the spotlight due to how quickly online hands go. In other cases, experts have suggested that PRNGs produce hand results that are far more realistically random than those that would be seen if they were dealt by a human hand.
Despite the safety and fairness that this offers, online poker sites and casinos have made use of PRNGs to provide fair and random results but are also employing advanced programming. This means that the algorithm needs to remain protected. Once these security concerns have been addressed, operators need to find a way to get the PRNGs to create playable hands of poker. If this transformation is not completed perfectly, the hands that are dealt will reveal cards that don’t appear random and certain cards, or card combinations, will appear more frequently than others. Skilled and observant poker players would pick up on these patterns and would eventually lose confidence in the security and fairness on offer. Operators work hard to avoid this bias and keep their reputation for fair gameplay intact by implementing their technology and programming perfectly.
It is worth noting that criminals, hackers and shady players are not just determined but are also quite intelligent. This means that they could conduct thorough research on the PRNG that a site is using and develop algorithms to attempt to correctly predict which hands will be dealt and when. To avoid these kinds of opportunistic situations, operators constantly adjust and rework their PRNGs to ensure that new and random results are created. The site operators are dedicated to staying ahead of such cheating opportunities and take proactive measures. It’s for this reason that online gaming sites need a thorough, strong and competent team of system administrators that are dedicated to providing fair and secure play. A head administrator will be responsible for attending to the PRNGs algorithms, the transformation and all related programs.