While players win, “because if you don’t win, you don’t stay,” Sertell said, he also contends that payouts are intentionally limited. The operator decides how many “outcomes” they want to put in a sweepstakes game, what value each of the wins will be and how many they will have.
“The presence of such a device would make that automatically illegal in any gaming jurisdiction,” he said. “If you can throw a switch that means the computer is controlling it, not the skill of any player.”
If the biggest jackpot is $5,000, the next down is likely $1,000 and there might be 10 of those. It was not uncommon to see a game offer 20 prizes valued at $500, 50 prizes valued at $100 all the way down to two-cent prizes, he said.
The operators say the winners are selected randomly, Sertell said, but “since the server is in a remote place, nobody can verify that.”
Unlike the slot machines operated at the state’s horse and dog tracks and regulated by the state, there is no regulation and no payout minimums offered to players operating the machines run by Allied Veterans and configured by International Internet Technologies, a gaming software company. The Oklahoma-based firm allegedly earned $63 million from the $300 million Allied Vets operation.
His conclusion: “In my opinion, each of these locations was operating a gambling establishment and the machines or terminals themselves constitute slot machines and gambling devices as defined by Florida statutes 849.16,” Sertell wrote in his affidavit. “The servers, databases and personal computers, when linked together and taken as a single system is a device adapted in such a way to constitute a ‘slot machine.’ ”
In June 2011, Sertell was retained by the Miami City attorney to examine the machines that were seized as part of a crackdown on illegal gambling devices there. He examined the guts of the machines, as well as the service manuals, and concluded that the video gambling terminals used in South Florida adult arcades and the maquinitas of Miami are self-contained gambling machines with computer logic boards.
The operator of the machines, known as a “Cherry Master,” manages a logic board with eight different payout percentages that are rigged to cap winnings and can be set to stop big payouts before the number generator chooses a big win.
“It happens in a millionth of a second, and the computer will set it again and again until it gets an outcome that fits at it setting,” he said. “The human eye can never detect it.”
The machine may be set to payout 55 to 60 percent of all the money taken in but, unlike regulated machines which have higher payouts and calculate the percentage on a mathematical cycle that might take six months, “these Cherry Masters are calculated every second,” Sertell said.
Sertell now finds the Florida Legislature’s rush to ban the machines amusing. He has worked with the Seminole County Sheriff’s department, which has spent years warning lawmakers and law enforcement to crackdown on the illegal machines only to have them reject their call as the industry flooded them with campaign donations. “Isn’t it amazing how Dudley Do-Right has rode the halls of the capital,’’ Sertell said. “I’ve never before seen a Legislature act like they’ve all been shocked.”