How a Random Number Generator in an Online Casino Works, and Whether it Can Be Hacked

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Daniel C. White
06.03.2021

The RNG (random number generator) is responsible for the sequence of all events in online casino games. There are legends on the Internet that it can be tweaked, understood or hacked. Let’s find out how the RNG works before considering how to trick it.

Background. Mechanical casino slots that operated in the early 20th century did not have a random number generator. Instead, they had a mechanism that spun the reels at a certain speed, and observant users noticed some patterns. Some masters even managed to calculate approximate winning sequences and win. Such stories underlay the myth that online slots can also be won if you understand the RNG operation. However, no one has succeeded in this so far.

The RNG in a casino is a physical device with its own software or exclusively a program protected by the MD5 cryptographic algorithm. The RNG is used in all types of online casino games: slots, video poker, roulette, card games, etc.

There are two types of casino generators, according to the method of implementation:

  • HRNG is a hardware random number generator
  • PRNG is a pseudo-random number generator

Hardware random number generator (HRNG)

The HRNG is used in gambling halls or land-based casinos, it is almost never used in online casinos.

The hardware random number generator is a device (microcircuit or board) that generates a random sequence in accordance with the chaotically changing parameters of a physical process. It is based on completely unpredictable processes: quantum phenomena, isotope emissions, shot noise, etc.

The starting point is a certain number characteristic of the physical process, on the basis of which the HRNG generates the result – the state of the roulette wheel, the position of the reels, etc.

The HRNG is located inside the device, protected by a seal, and casino employees do not have access to it. The generator is tested by an independent laboratory prior to installation. To tune the generator in its favor, the casino needs to remove the seal, cross-flash and put the HRNG back. This is absolutely impossible in licensed casinos, because they are under constant control. The operation of the generator cannot be influenced from outside.

Pseudo-random number generator (PRNG)

The PRNG is a protected software, where a mathematical algorithm is implemented that produces random sequences of numbers. This type of a generator is most often used in online casino games. Moreover, each slot machine, video poker or roulette has its own secure algorithm. The algorithms vary across manufacturers, which are trade secrets.

The PRNG operates continuously, the algorithm constantly generates numbers in an unpredictable order. A number with several thousand or even millions of decimal places is the starting point in the operation of such an RNG. The number Pi with trillions of decimal places is often taken as a basis – do not forget that it is just a starting point!

The generator algorithm performs a long series of mathematical operations to get a random number from the number at the starting point. These operations, their number and order are the development secret. As a result, the result looks random. You need to bypass the encryption algorithm protection to access the PRNG settings, which is impossible in licensed games. Their generators are tested even before the game release and remain under control all the time.

RNG operating principle

The HRNG and PRNG share the same principle, while having different starting points and different algorithms. The generator operates continuously. Many people mistakenly believe that the RNG generates a sequence at the moment the start button is pressed. This is not the case – numbers are generated constantly. However, the result visible to the user is shown only at the moment they perform actions in the game.

Theoretically, the next resulting number can be predicted if you know the operating algorithm and the period of the result determination. However, the algorithm and all its parameters are hidden and reliably protected in practice. Therefore, specialists who claim that they have found a way to constantly win are just fraudsters or simply do not understand the matter.

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RNG certification

As was mentioned above, each developer has their own RNG. It can be used in one or several games. Poker rooms also use RNG, where the generator guarantees that the cards dealt are truly random.

However, before the game is presented to the end user, the RNG undergoes a multi-stage verification and certification. The certificate proves the fair operation of the equipment, software or poker room.

The product developers are obliged to obtain the RNG certificate. To do this, the RNG is transferred to a specialized company of the relevant jurisdiction for audit. Auditors are serious companies that risk their reputation by issuing a certificate.

Here are the most reputable companies issuing the RNG conformity certificates:

  • Gaming Laboratory International (GLI)
  • eCOGRA
  • Technical Systems Testing
  • Price Waterhouse Coopers

Certificates from such companies is proud boast, so the developers make the test results public.

Obtaining an RNG certificate is an expensive and troublesome procedure, which requires not just finance. The company, which submits the RNG for verification, must be officially registered and hold a development license. The generator must comply with the declared standards and parameters, which is tested during certification.

To simplify the procedure, the RNG can be bought from certified vendors. In this case, the certificate is automatically enclosed.

What happens after certification

The HRNG is sealed after the verification and the issuance of the certificate. The seal is regularly checked to exclude tampering. The PRNGs are blocked using special software and checked for hacking from time to time.

The certificate issued for the RNG contains not just the generator algorithm, but also a list of all games in which the developer uses it.

Please note that it is incorrect to talk about the casino’s RNG. The random number generator only applies to hardware or software games in which random events occur. When a licensed casino buys licensed games, it automatically offers a verified product with a certified RNG. That is why it is important to choose only licensed websites for playing for real money in order to guarantee fair play.

The RNGs are constantly changing and become more complex and secure. The generators in modern games are much stronger and have enhanced protection against hacking. Therefore, fresh slot machines on the online casino website is an indirect confirmation of fair play and credibility of the resource.

Can RNGs be hacked?

The modern random number generators are protected using the MD5 algorithm. It is used to protect passwords and ensures the highest protection against hacking. At the moment, not a single case of legal circumvention of this protection has been recorded.