People ask me all the time about the difference between online casino
slots and the mechanical beast they are used to playing at the land based
casino. They are often surprised when I tell them they are more related
than unrelated. The truth of the matter though, is that the mechanical
slots at the casinos these days can't really be called mechanical anymore.
In the mid seventies, as the digital revolution was getting its feet planed
firmly on the ground, casinos started to move to a combination of digital
circuits and video displays. A modern casino slot machine, while it still
may have a mechanical set of reels, is just about as digital as online
When you pull the one armed bandit, in that microsecond a digital circuit
known as the random number generator is called upon to produce some, well,
random numbers. These numbers are big long strings of digits stemming
from the software that is hard-coded into the circuits of the slot machine.
At this point, according to the payout percentage of the machine, each
random number is pushed through a set of mappings so that they all work
out to a specific symbol position for a specific reel. The likelihood
of a combination of symbols being hit is determined at this point, as
each possible position is weighted in accordance with the payback percentage.
To maintain a 96% payback percentage for example, the machine places the
winning combinations at a lower weight than the losing combos. This way
winning combinations get mapped less of the time, and as a result the
payback percentage is kept in check.
Online casino slots work on the same principle. Depending on the game
type, the random number generator may be contained within the code of
the software slot game itself, or may be part of a server application
residing on a remote computer. For real online casino slots, where you
play for real money, the random number generation invariable resides on
the server side, not on your local computer. The software that you download
to play real online slots contains only the graphical front end, and the
means to communicate your spin to the server. Once it has sent your spin
off, the server machine acts like the insides of a casino slot machine,
and maps out a combination of reel positions. The server sends these reel
positions back to the client (your home computer), and the client displays
the result. So online casino slots are the same as regular casino slots,
but have half of their programming physically located in the casino's
servers. For this reason it is argued that the 'bet' takes place in the
server computer at the online casino, as opposed to on your home computer.
This is a fundamental argument for the online casino industry in their
fight against lawmakers who oppose their services.
Most people usually have the same reaction to the 'distributed' explanation
of online casino slots that I just gave: does this mean that the games
can be cheated? Since there is data flowing back and forth between the
client and server, and since a good hacker can get into that data flow,
it's natural to assume somebody could input some false data and change
the outcome of the game. The natural impedance to this is something called
encryption. When the data is sent out of the client, it is in an encrypted
form, meaning it cannot be decoded or understood without a corresponding
encryption key. Since the client software knows it only wants to communicate
with a specific server, it's data is encrypted in a way that only the
server machine may read it. The same is true in the opposite direction
when data flows from the server to the client. The most common way you
are likely to hear about encryption as it relates to the online casino
industry is casinos themselves advertising the fact that they use '128
bit encryption'. This 128 bit description is a measure of the relative
strength of the encryption. All encryption can be broken by an outside
third party piece of software, but the stronger the encryption is, the
longer it would take to break. A piece of data encrypted with 128 bit
security would literally take years and years to crack, making it effectively
impossible to do it before the data is sent and received by the computers
involved. In order to cheat the game you would need to be able to decrypt
the data and re-encrypt it so fast you fool the computers, in other words,
it would need to take place in near real-time. Online casino slots which
are part of an online casino that uses this type of technology are as
un-cheatable as the console machines you find in Vegas. While this may
be bad news to some of you, it also means there is little chance anyone
will steal your jackpot on you, so honest players remain safe.
So the players wont be cheating you, what about the online casino operators?
This is more of a touchy issue, but one you can be pretty sure about if
you look at the right variables. The best indicator of an online casinos
legitimacy is it's regulating agency. In Las Vegas there is the Nevada
gaming council, but online the casino is subject to the regulating agencies
of the country or soil on which the servers reside. Before you gamble
at any online casino it's easy to find out who the regulating commission
is, just give the casino a call if it's not listed on their web page.
If the casino doesn't have a phone number, then you might want to reconsider
your choice of casinos. Do a couple of searches on the internet once you've
determined the regulating agency for the online casino you wish to try,
and see if anybody else in the world has had a problem with them.