Electronic Airball roulette: Fair or Fake?

A matter of confidence

The issue of fairness of the game is not new. It was and is always there, across all types of roulette wheels. From physical wheels that are found to use electromagnets or be biased to less than random Random Number Generators of online casinos. This is exactly the reason, that recently the concept of provably fair games gains traction and popularity in the gambling community. On the physical wheels front, Cammegh has developed an innovative roulette wheel construction made out of glass, in order for the player to be able to see “inside” and have more confidence in the game.

Cammeh glass roulette wheel
transparent wheel made of glass

Players worldwide have been questioning the fairness of the relatively recently introduced automated roulette machines, otherwise known as airball or rapid roulette or even more broadly called electronic roulette. Many heated debates in different online roulette communities over the last years didn’t provide a conclusive answer. Typically, manufacturers in the industry are not transparent on how its games operate and one would need to own a machine to disclose it’s secrets. We will try to give some answers.

Who makes this stuff?

Air-ball roulette systems, often produced in the East-European country of Slovenia, came to the gambling venues in the late nineties. Known brands in the industry are Interblock/Elektroncek, Alfastreet, Gold club, Spintec, Igt and Novomatic. For those, unfamiliar with the game: The setup typically consists of an electric rotor powered roulette wheel covered by a glass dome. The ball is launched by being blown out of the pocket by a puff of air. A number of player consoles are strategically placed around the wheel and punters would place their bets using touch-screens until ‘no more bets’ is called. All wins or losses are calculated electronically. The interval of independent spins is typically set between 60 and 90 seconds, assuring a steady game flow. The automated game links to the casino’s central monitoring system for the state to accurately tax the winnings.

How do they work?

To answer the question what they really are, it might be helpful to scrutinize some of the patents related to this subject. Through the eyes of the gambler, these machines may look like a regular roulette with the difference that the dealer is absent. One would think that the mechanical number distribution would be completely random and determined by the laws of physics. However, this understandable assumption cannot always stand hold. I discovered the following, when taking a closer look at an online patent from the latest generation automated roulette machines, USPatent US 20140015194 A1:

Before the wheel is spun, or after the wheel has begun to spin, a random number generator selects a random outcome of a roulette game event outcome.

For the true roulette lover, this quote might be quite shocking. I started having serious doubts about the fairness of my local air-ball machine when noticing a great difference in patterns while observing the automated roulette machine, versus actively wagering s for real money. It even gets more unsettling, just let sink in the following quote:

The deceleration should be smooth so as to avoid the appearance of control over the wheel which a player might consider as a fraudulent control.

 

airball roulette mechanism

On my local rapid roulette, I clocked various values, ranging from 12 pockets per second to 17 pockets per second (p/ps) at first ball rotation. After ‘no more bets’ is called, there are another 10 ball rotations when ball and wheel speed are decelerating until the final drop. Unnatural variance of p/ps is not visible to the eye but does take place in order to line up with the pocket or sector selected by the RNG, in advance. It is important to know that air-ball machines, even the same model and manufacturer, could have different game setups and software versions, hence the values presented herein are not representative for other electronic roulette models.

The roulette game depicted in this patent is different from a conventional roulette wheel: In example, the track and the alphanumeric remain stable (do not rotate) during actual play of a game event. To outline all differences is beyond the scope of this article. However, an important paragraph from this patent is worth noting:
Published US Patent Application Documents Nos. 20020090988; 20040116177; 20070026930; and 20080113706 describe roulette table systems having terminal wagering systems and this technology can be used in combination with the present novel technology.

Fair game?

This last statement underlines that present technology as described in this patent is downwards compatible with older air-ball roulette machines that are set up with the conventional roulette wheels.

It’s not easy to tell if your local airball roulette is a true random spun device or an ordinary slot machine in disguise. Many (rather thick) deflectors with little space left in between, only one or two dominant drops, very little scatter of the ball and frequent hits next to your wagered numbers, are all indicators that should raise suspicion. Elaborate and empirical testing would be required for each and any individual air-ball roulette machine, to come to definite conclusions.

Gold Club electronic roulette
Gold Club electronic roulette

Taken into account these quotes, one must be wary that some automated roulette models are able to chose number outcomes before or during ball launch and determined by a Random Number Generator (RNG). This might explain why these airball machines are classified as EGMs (Electronic Gaming Devices) by different international Gaming Boards: The same class as slot machines, poker machines and RNG games.

electronic wheel
Cammegh Slingshot 2 model

I believe it would be fair if casino patrons were informed about the true nature of air-ball roulette games; that the winning numbers are determined by RNG and not by law of physics. In my opinion, the casino industry has crossed a line when it comes to offering a supposedly ‘fair’ game for its clientele. Manipulating outcomes through deceleration of the wheel, ‘so smooth as to avoid the appearance of control over the wheel’, is downright cheating.

The Mercury 360 RSS

Players beware that conventional looking roulette wheels with a live dealer could make use of RNG electronically controlled rotors such as the Cammegh Mercury RSS. We read on the companys brochure:

Designed for the online gaming sector, the Mercury 360 RRS (Random Rotor Speed) incorporates an innovative mechanism to randomly and imperceptibly adjust the speed of the rotor at ‘No More Bets’. This feature dramatically increases the wheel’s unpredictability and provides an extra layer of security against rotor ‘clocking’, whilst also boosting productivity by allowing ‘No More bets’ to be safely called later on in the game.

Cammegh mercury RSS electronic wheel
Cammegh Mercury RSS electronic wheel

I have captured my personal quest about beating air-ball roulette with the help of Advantage Play (AP) techniques in the following video:

By Robert Groenen

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