The gangs have discovered predictable patterns in the machines' pseudorandom number-generators. They use streaming cellphone video (shot through a mesh cutaway breast-pocket) to allow analysts in St Petersburg to characterize the machines' patterns, then those analysts send quarter-second-delayed buzzes through the phones back to the field-operatives, telling them when to stop the slots' spin to maximize payouts. The crooks take no more than $1,000 from any machine, and it took a long time for casino operators to figure out why their machines were paying out more than statistics predicted they should (early versions of the scam required operators to hold their phones up to machines while playing them, go off for a while, then return -- a much more obvious hack that allowed for detection). The FBI have arrested some of the alleged operators, at least one of whom is said to be turning state's evidence, and thus providing the means to unravel the scam. However, slot machine operators have no countermeasures -- apart from surveillance and arrests -- to keep their machines from being gamed this way. The economic realities of the gaming industry seem to guarantee that the St. Petersburg organization will continue to flourish. The machines have no easy technical fix. As Hoke notes, Aristocrat, Novomatic, and any other manufacturers whose PRNGs have been cracked would have to pull all the machines out of service and put something else in, and theyre not going to do that. (In Aristocrats statement to WIRED, the company stressed that it has been unable to identify defects in the targeted games and that its machines are built to and approved against rigid regulatory technical standards.) At the same time, most casinos cant afford to invest in the newest slot machines, whose PRNGs use encryption to protect mathematical secrets; as long as older, compromised machines are still popular with customers, the smart financial move for casinos is to keep using them and accept the occasional loss to scammers.
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It limits lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to $100 annually, a major change given there were previously no caps. It also calls for an independent commission to ensure state ethics laws aren't violated and administer the public campaign finance program. Top Republican lawmakers contend those provisions are unconstitutional. They challenged the overhaul in state court, which put the initiative on hold while the case moves forward. Elsewhere, Maine Gov. Paul LePage has said he wants to mitigate the "severe" damage done by citizen initiatives, including a minimum wage hike, while Massachusetts and North Dakota have delayed marijuana initiatives to give officials more time. But the South Dakota push appears to be the most concrete effort so far to overturn a 2016 ballot measure, said Josh Altic, ballot measures project director at Ballotpedia, an encyclopedia of American politics. At least 10 states, albeit not South Dakota, have provisions to protect citizens' initiatives from state lawmakers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. For example, Alaska and Wyoming lawmakers can't repeal an initiative within two years.
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