Studies say software cheats players at 2 online casinos
By Mark Gruetze
Published: Friday, Nov. 18, 2011
At least two online casinos use software that cheats craps players, two leading gambling statisticians say.
The software by BLR Technologies, based in Costa Rica, detects a player's bet and increases the chances of a losing roll, according to gambling consultant Michael Shackleford, known as the "Wizard of Odds," and Eliot Jacobson, operator of Jacobson Gaming, which audits and certifies casino games around the world.
Legends.com and World Wide Wagering ( www.wager.dm ) use the BLR software in their craps games, according to rating service SportsBookReview.com . A third operator, 5Dimes.com , said it dropped BLR after the studies were posted on Shackleford's WizardOfVegas.com site.
Rachel Miller, general manager of Legends, said the software used on her site plays fairly. She said the company has invested thousands of dollars in new random number generators to work with the BLR software. She said she could not agree or disagree with the Shackleford and Jacobson studies because they did not test the craps game at Legends.
"I guarantee that everything is perfect on our end," she said.
A spokeswoman for 5Dimes said the company had no comment beyond a statement to Shackleford's site that it had removed BLR software from its casinos.
"BLR was given ample time to address the concerns of (WizardOfVegas) forum members as well as our direct questions," the statement said. "No acceptable answers were given, so the casino platform was removed."
BLR and World Wide did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment.
Legends, licensed in Panama, and 5Dimes, based in Costa Rica, are among only five online sports books with an A-plus rating from SportsBookReview.com, which grades hundreds of sites for customer service, incentives and pricing. World Wide, licensed in Dominica, West Indies, has a B grade.
The complaint about the craps software surfaced last month in a WizardOfVegas player forum.
Norman Clem, 66, of Las Vegas said he had been playing craps at World Wide for about a year and was slightly ahead before he suddenly started losing.
"I thought I was just on a bad run. But it never stopped," he told Player's Advantage. He documented his play, recording each bet and each outcome in a spreadsheet. From May 14 to Aug. 27, he videotaped 3,200 rolls in which he bet "pass" or "don't pass," the simplest bets in craps.
Those bets should win almost 49 percent of the time. Clem said he won 856 times, about 27 percent.
Intrigued by Clem's postings, Shackleford played craps at 5Dimes, which was using BLR software at the time. He said he bet only the pass line, winning 81 times and losing 247.
"It would have been easier to win the Powerball two out of two times than to be as unlucky as I was," said Shackleford, who has helped design slot machines for Internet casinos.
Jacobson said he devised a test to see whether the software "would really misbehave." With his approach, he would win something unless a seven came on the next roll.
"Suddenly, it produced a lot of sevens," he said. In 74 chances, a seven came up 41 times, or more than once in every two rolls; with fair dice, a seven comes up an average of once every six rolls.
"Thousands of people have been ripped off by this software," Jacobson said.
Clem said World Wide refunded his losses.
"It's obvious I was cheated, so what were they going to do?" he said.
Shackleford said 5Dimes refunded his losses. It's unclear whether others received refunds.
Jacobson said BLR also makes software for online blackjack, video poker, roulette and slots, but he does not know of any research into those.
Legends, World Wide and 5Dimes are primarily sports books, but offer casino games as another gambling attraction. Miller said less than 10 percent of Legends' 7,500 active gamblers use the casino.
She said Legends continues to use BLR, in part, because the software works so well with the site's main function of handling sports bets.
The United States does not license or regulate online gambling. Federal law prohibits American gamblers from collecting winnings from Internet casinos.
The federal government's April 15 crackdown on Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Ultimate Bet was based on accusations that they violated U.S. banking law.
Although those sites were shut down in the United States, 300 offshore companies continue to offer online gambling to U.S. players, according to the American Gaming Association, an industry group.
Shackleford and Jacobson said the BLR case should hasten the move toward U.S. regulation of online gambling.
"It only goes to show that when there's no regulation, there's nothing to stop these types of things from happening," Shackleford said.
"This kind of issue just shows how much (regulation is) needed," Jacobson said. "People are going to continue to gamble at these sites. There are still thieves and crooks creating crooked software."
Table game revenue up
Gamblers lost $48.2 million in October at house-backed table games such as blackjack, craps and roulette in Pennsylvania's 10 casinos, the Gaming Control Board reported this week. In addition, the casinos made $4.9 million from poker, where players compete against each other.
The $53.1 million total is up from September's $51.4 million and the October 2010 total of $40.9 million. State and local taxes take 16 percent of the gross table game revenue. October figures for Western Pennsylvania casinos:
Rivers: $5.53 million; fifth in the state and up from $4.2 million in October 2010.
The Meadows: $1.72 million; ninth in the state and down from $2.6 million last year.
Presque Isle in Erie: $1.52 million, 10th in the state and down from $1.56 million last year. Its poker room opened last month.
Slot players lost $46.1 million at Pennsylvania's 10 casinos during the week ended Nov. 13, the Gaming Control Board said. That's up from $43.6 million in the comparable week last year.
State taxes take 55 percent of that gross slot revenue — what's left after all jackpots have been paid.
Statewide, slots have posted a 90.1 percent payout rate since the fiscal year started in July. For every $100 bet, machines pay out $90.10.
Payout rates in Western Pennsylvania:
Rivers: 89.85 percent
Meadows: 89.73 percent
Presque Isle: 90.46 percent
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
What's the house advantage in blackjack when cards are dealt from a single deck and from an eight-deck shoe• (From Phyllis Bishop of Cranberry)
Using Pennsylvania rules — including dealer stands on soft 17, late surrender and the option to double after a split — the house advantage is 0.36 percent in an eight-deck game for a player who follows basic strategy perfectly. If you could find a single-deck game with the same rules, the player would have a 0.2 percent edge over the house. That would be a great game! Source: blackjack house edge calculator at WizardOfOdds.com .
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