Fruit machines cheat? Didn't we all know that already?

No, we didn't. Everyone knows that UK fruit machines aren't random. No-one is suggesting that they SHOULD be random. However, there's a big difference between simply not being random, and cheating. Take our "High-Low" example. If you have an 11 showing on a High-Low reel, nobody really expects the next spin to be random, and nobody expects that all the numbers 1-10 and 12 are equally likely to come up. Many people suspect that the machine will predetermine a 12 for the next spin if it doesn't want you to win. However, most people also believe that if you should be brave enough to choose "High" from the 11 in those circumstances, the 12 would still come up and you would still win. The machine pre-selecting a 12 is NOT cheating. The machine selecting a 12 if you press "Lower", but selecting a 3 if you press "Higher", so that it's not possible to win no matter what you do, IS cheating.


Do all fruit machines cheat?

We haven't tested every machine in existence yet. (Not every machine is supported by emulators.) But so far, out of all the dozens of machines we've tried, every single one cheats in the ways described on this site. (With the exception of so-called "Low-tech" machines of the sort normally found in bingo halls and so on, which don't have a Hi-Lo reel and usually don't allow wins to be gambled at all. These still predetermine results, but don't cheat with no-win gambles.)

Do they only cheat on High-Low gambles?

No. As far as we can tell, practically the entire play cycle of any given fruit machine is completely predetermined. The symbols which fall on the reels are predetermined, the results of gambles are predetermined, the squares landed on during feature boards are predetermined. In every instance, the machine will predetermine a maximum win which the player can achieve on that turn, an amount very unlikely to be the jackpot stated on the machine's cabinet. The only way the player can affect that outcome is if he chooses to collect a lower win before reaching the predetermined maximum one.

It is generally (though not always) possible for a player to lose when the machine "intends" him to win, and hence upset the machine's predetermined sequence, however this simply causes the machine to reformulate the sequence and continue in predetermined manner from that point. It is never, as far as we've been able to ascertain, possible for the player to win if the machine "intends" him to lose.

But what about "Skill" features?

There are two kinds of features which fruit machines will flag as "Skill". The more common one is not skill-based at all, it merely creates an impression of being so by, for example, lighting a moving trail sequentially rather than randomly. However, when the player finally presses the button to stop the feature, the machine will not necessarily select the light that was lit at that point. Frequently it will "jump" to a different one entirely. You can see this behaviour for yourself by slowing the machine down using the emulator's "Delay" function.

As players came to realise that "Skill" features were misleadingly named, manufacturers instituted the "True Skill" feature. According to the BACTA guidelines, features described as "True Skill" must actually be functions of player skill. (Though bear in mind that these are only guidelines and are not legally enforceable.) However, the machine gets round this by only offering "True Skill" in a limited manner. For example, if a win ladder has 12 positions, the machine may only offer "True Skill" gambles on the first eight positions. After that it will cease to say "True Skill" on its display, and normal (cheating) behaviour will be resumed. 


But don't machines HAVE to cheat in order to make a profit?

No, they don't. It's perfectly easy for a machine to attain its set percentage without cheating. All it has to do is run however many non-winning games are required in order to recoup what it's "lost" by paying out wins to a player. (If it doesn't drop any wins onto the reels, the player doesn't have a chance to gamble them up to higher wins.) This might lead to fairly long sequences without any wins, but fruit machines are susceptible to that situation already (try playing a machine someone just took a 60 streak out of), so it wouldn't affect the likelihood of people playing.

How can fruit machines possibly have continued to operate for decades if their behaviour is illegal?

Because until now it was impossible to prove that they were illegal, because there was no way of reverting to the point before a choice was made. Emulators have finally made that possible.

Also, the Government isn't particularly interested in fruit machines or the people who play them. The incredible lack of legislation with regard to fruit-machine behaviour is evidence of this. There is, as far as we can tell, no specific legislation at all governing how fruit machines operate, and no legally-enforceable minimum payout. Most other forms of gambling are far more tightly controlled, even though they typically offer far better returns to the player and the player is hence in less need of protection. (The house advantage on roulette, for example, is only about 3% of all money staked, compared to the 30% taken by fruit machine operators who are abiding by the minimum-payout guidelines.)

The government has failed to implement even extremely easy yet powerful legislation governing fruit machines. For example, there is no way for players to verify that a machine is paying out at the percentage settings claimed on the front of the cabinet. A simple LED readout would solve this problem, and involve little to no cost to manufacturers, who have voiced no significant opposition to such a scheme. But successive governments have ignored repeated requests from players to pass such legislation. UK Governments tend to be far more interested in the licensing of gaming machines, their stakes and prize values, than with whether the machines themselves act in a fair or legal way.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently conducting a wide-ranging review of gambling legislation with a view to bringing into law a comprehensive new Gambling Act. We hope that the information contained on this website will have an effect on that review and the legislation arising from it.

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