Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Money Wired," by Dan Koeppel. Popular Science, November 2002.

The author explores what's new in gambling casinos: how huge payoffs are possible (through digital networking of virtually every slot machine in the country), and how digital surveillance systems using face recognition software are used to spot cheaters, high rollers, and individuals based on frequency and amounts of their bets. The author reveals how the work of Inge Telnaes, a theoretical mathematician, who left IBM to work for Bally's in Reno in 1984, laid the foundation for the growth and success of Las Vegas. Telnaes "was granted a patent for an Electronic Gaming Device Utilizing a Random Number Generator for Selecting the Reel Stop Positions." Now, "every game---slots, cards, sports betting, even bingo---is now attempting to adapt a Telnaes-style solution: Decrease the odds without increasing apparent complexity. That allows bigger prizes, which increases---by staggering quantities---the amount of money people are willing to gamble." The article goes on to examine how biometric software, which maps facial characteristics, is also being used in casinos.

--- Annette Emerson