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Should It Be Illegal to Exploit a Video Poker Bug and Win Big?

Illustration for article titled Should It Be Illegal to Exploit a Video Poker Bug and Win Big?

A Las Vegas District Court judge is currently weighing a big question that you may have opinions on: is exploiting a bug on a casino's video poker machine illegal or not?


Wired reports that a pair of gamblers, John Kane and Andre Nestor , stumbled upon a bug while playing video poker in a Las Vegas casino. Wired explains:

John Kane had been the final player at machine 50102, and he’d opted for Triple Play Triple Double Bonus Poker, winning three hands at once at the maximum $10 denomination. His last game was still on the screen: three aces, four aces, three aces again. At payout odds of 820-to-1 he’d scored an $8,200 bonanza... [H]e was exploiting a previously-unknown firmware bug present in the Game King and nine other IGT machines – one that had been hidden for seven years.


But the bug only required playing the machine—not fiddling with software or hardware in any way—so it's unclear if it counts as illegal or otherwise. The problem is that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a little vague when it comes to what counts as hacking and what counts as computer misuse—and that's what the judge is wrestling with. A ruling which declares the incident legal could have an interesting impact on how the CFAA is used in the future, but what do you think? [WIRED via Daring Fireball]

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If we assume these factors hold:

He didn't physically break into the machine.
He didn't place the bug there, nor know how the bug was there.
He did nothing illegal simply by playing on the machine, which had probably been played by many others over the seven years it was in business.
He played a game of chance and got rewarded. (Not like typing $50 in an ATM and getting $1000 back)

I don't think there should even be a case.