Are Random Number Generators Really Random?
RNG, Random Number Generators – What does it do? How does it do it?
RNG is an abbreviation for “Random Number Generator” and without them there would be no Online Casinos or Land-Based Casinos.
The following is a simple explanation of how Casino software uses an RNG or ‘Random Number Generators’ to make the outcome of their games random and thus unpredictable and hopefully exciting. It is in no way a technical explanation of RNG’s.
Casinos need random numbers to be able to simulate games with a random element and naturally since this is gambling, all of the casino games have a random element!
Imagine a virtual game of Heads or Tails where (0) may represent Tails and (1) represents Heads. A slot with (10) symbols on a reel may need a random number from (1) to (10) to determine the stop position of that reel. A deck of cards may require a number from (1) to (52) to determine the next card dealt.
It would be no use to the Casino if one was able to predict the next number on a virtual roulette wheel or next card dealt from a virtual deck of cards so the RNG a Casino uses needs to be thoroughly tested for randomness as patterns would be easily exploited by seasoned and observant players.
The RNG though does not simply pluck a number out of thin air. It must have a method of some kind that it can use to generate a stream of random numbers and there are many methods.
However some of these methods are more secure and suitable for Online Casinos needs than others.
For example, a pseudo RNG which uses computational algorithms is not suitable even though it can produce a long sequence of apparently random numbers.
Because this type of RNG requires a seed, which is the initial source, the sequence is intrinsically predictable.
Know the algorithm and seed and predict the numbers – Game Over for the Casino!
Far more suitable for gaming and what is actually used is a hardware RNG. There are many different types of hardware RNG but generally they generate random numbers from natural physical processes. Obviously these processes themselves need to be random but they could be based on atmospheric noise for example. See Random.org for some interesting reading.
There are many other affordable hardware solutions but truly random systems appear at the subatomic level such as thermal noise or the unpredictable decay of a radioactive atom.
The point is, there is no seed (set value) from which random numbers are generated with such a method and as long as the hardware is secure and the physical process random, this should be a close enough to truly random system to serve a Casinos needs.
You may have seen a TST Certificate, Technical Systems Testing, on the website of your chosen Casino – usually under the fair gaming tab. This is a Canadian company that carry out tests on Random Number Generators amongst other things to evaluate that they distribute raw numbers with sufficient non-predictability, fair distribution and lack of bias toward particular outcomes.
Or in plain English, that it works and produces random outcomes. Here is a list of services that TST offer to online casinos with the one I have just explained in bold;
Base Website Evaluations & Compliance Testing
Consultation & Compliance Support
Games Evaluations & Compliance Testing
Random Number Generators (RNG) Evaluations & Compliance Testing
Technical Standards Document (TSD) Development
The reason I list these services is because it is important to note that just because the Random Number Generators a Casino uses has been passed by TST, it does not mean that the games are guaranteed fair. This is because although the test is genuine and the RNG may produce completely random results, it does not test the implementation of the RNG within the games.
So if you’re of a suspicious nature you may want to ask a Casino carrying the TST Certificate if they have also had TST (games evaluation and compliance testing) completed.
They should be able to provide a link to the appropriate certificate. Of course, even then, there is no guarantee because this certificate would still be granted for a slot with a theoretical return of 50% as far as I am aware. They only test that the system is implemented correctly and the games work within their parameters and it is not TST’s remit to dictate to a Casino what RTP or return to a player is reasonable.
Of course a Casino that sets its slots to 50% payout would have a pretty short shelf life but you get the idea. You should however be reasonably confident that table games will give a close approximation of their real life counterparts.
Contributing Writer: Rusty