Testing, Approval and Inspection of Electronic Gaming Equipment
The AGCO, through its Technical and Laboratory Services Branch, is responsible for ensuring the integrity, security, fairness and audit capability of all electronic gaming hardware, software, associated equipment and gaming management systems. The Branch also provides a regulatory presence in Ontario´s ten casinos and 14 slot machine facilities.
The Branch tests and approves all new electronic gaming equipment and gaming management systems (e.g. slot monitoring systems, cashless systems and progressives), conducts random and scheduled inspections of approved electronic gaming equipment at the gaming establishments, and verifies slot machines and associated software when jackpots of $30,000 or more are paid per established procedures.
Extensive testing is carried out to ensure that each piece of electronic gaming equipment in operation in Ontario is not susceptible to cheating, meets software and hardware standards, and meets required standards of randomness in order to protect consumers from defective or compromised equipment. Elements of each machine that are tested include:
- random number generator;
- game software;
- game integrity, security and controls;
- accounting capability;
- paytables to ensure all winnings are accurate and possible;
- and safety features.
Each new slot machine platform and any subsequent hardware or software modifications coming to Ontario from gaming suppliers all over the world must be satisfactory evaluated before being approved by the Registrar. The AGCO Gaming Lab was established in Toronto in order to facilitate game evaluation and approval process. The lab personnel is composed of several engineers, mathematicians and technologists, in addition to a Technical Administration Officer and two managers.
The AGCO’s Electronic Gaming Lab is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005, the recognized international accreditation standard for quality assurance of testing laboratories. This achievement makes Ontario the first known gaming jurisdiction with an ISO accredited gaming test lab, which tests gaming equipment/systems against technical standards for regulatory approval while adhering to ISO requirements prior to their use in Ontario.
The primary role of the lab is evaluation of computerized electronic gaming equipment and gaming management systems in Ontario in order to ensure that games played by the public at casinos and slot facilities in Ontario comply with Ontario legislation and meet AGCO gaming standards. For example, these standards ensure the minimum 85% theoretical payback for patrons, and that the results generated by games cannot be manipulated and are truly random. Less obvious, but also highly important, are tests to ensure the accuracy and reliability of links that connect individual games on the casino floor to gaming management systems, which provide central monitoring of gaming activities for the casino operators.
Typically, the process of game evaluation involves the following:
- technical testing by using specialized knowledge of computer technology, electronics, physics and probability and statistics,
- use of special test procedures, complex methods and advanced computerized instrumentation such as emulators
- adherence to QA practices and policies
- game evaluation by using risk analysis techniques, and
- application of existing gaming standards to evaluate game technical integrity, safety, security and accounting capability.
The lab also provides training and technical support to Electronic Gaming Enforcement Officers for their inspections of each piece of gaming equipment before it is made available for patron's play. Should any game concerns arise in field operations, lab personnel perform independent, unbiased investigation, and if required, testify as a recognized expert witness in the courts of Ontario.
It takes approximately 3 to 6 months to fully test a new slot machine prototype and 30 to 90 days to test a new game program. All new prototypes and game features require field testing. The Branch also conducts random inspections on slot machines currently in service.
The Branch also undertakes pre-opening inspections for new gaming establishments to ensure that only AGCO approved gaming equipment is installed, and that all machines are operating within established guidelines.
The Branch is responsible for the development of electronic gaming standards and policies for the Province of Ontario, and from time to time collaborates with other jurisdictions regarding standards and common issues.
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