Can You Trust Random Number Generators at Online Casinos?

Zoe Walker - EditorZoe Walker - 14 April 2020 in Features
Can You Trust Random Number Generators?

Trust is something that can be hard to come by these days. With mistrust growing among the public towards businesses and governments it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. In the world of casino gambling, chance is a component of all of the games that we play. If we’re playing blackjack, what’s the chance of getting X card when there are 5 decks in the pack and X certain cards have already been dealt? If we are playing a slot machine how does it figure out which symbol it lands on within each reel?

In computer generated casino games, random number generators are used to determine this chance element - which card gets picked, which symbol lands on a reel.

What are Random Number Generators?

Random Number Generators, often referred to as RNGs, are the computer equivalent of rolling a die to come up with a random number - you never know what number you’re going to get until you roll.

However, since there aren’t a million monkeys to roll a bunch of million-sided dice on hand, we tasked computers with the job for us.

How do computers calculate these random numbers?

Random number generators are trickier to make than you would think. The problem with a computer is that is only does what the programmer tells it to do. If a programmer tells a computer to pick a random number - well, it doesn’t know how to do that on its own.

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Pseudo-random number generators (PRNGs)

In computing, generally random numbers are chosen by a pseudo random number generator (PRNG). This is using a mathematical formula or tables to choose a ‘random’ number. These are actually deterministic, based on a ‘seed’ number. Often seed numbers are calculated by the time of day.

ISo, while the outcomes from each ‘roll of the die’ look different, if we know the formula (or lookup table) and the seed number, we can reproduce the exact same sequence of ‘random’ numbers.

IThis has been proved as a way for people to cheat on slot machines - particularly those who know the mathematics behind them. If they track a certain number of spins, they can calculate where in the ‘random’ sequence they are up to, then place bets knowing what numbers will occur next.

IIt’s for this reason that PRNG maths are kept very secret at companies, and why, now, true random number generators are often used instead.

True random number generators (TRNGs)

True random number generators (TRNGs) derive their seed from some sort of random external physical phenomena, such as radioactive source decay (which is very unpredictable), or sound via atmospheric noise (as long as it’s not tampered with!).

When using these phenomena as the seed source, it can be impossible to determine both the seed and the mathematical formula, so impossible to cheat.

Importance of third party auditing

So how can we tell that the casino games that we play online can’t be tampered with, or that other people can cheat on them? How can we trust their random number generators are legitimate?

That’s through third party auditing, done by trusted security companies, such as the auditing done by Gaming Labs International. Casino houses that pass the strict auditing procedures are issued with a certificate of proof that the Random Number Generator used is trustworthy and foolproof.

For example, Gaming Labs RNG evaluations take into account “source code review, assessment for the RNG period, determination of the RNG range, investigation of the seeding/re-seeding, inspection of the background cycling/activity, security to outcomes cannot be tampered with, etc., outcome distribution tests, and the DIEHARD battery of tests.”

So… can they be trusted?

The answer to whether RNGs can be trusted is YES - if given the seal of approval by a proper, professional, skilled auditing firm. If you’re playing on casino sites, check for the little badges on the page to see which certifications, programs, and groups the casino is affiliated with for peace of mind.