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After taking my daughter to the arcade today, and blowing through a few bucks myself trying to win an ipad, I decided to look up the manual for the arcade game I was playing -- Sega's "Keymaster" -- Link attached, long story short, it is in fact rigged.
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Subsequently I am now looking up ways to beat the house edge on arcade games.
You dont, man...Trust me, they are all rigged
Thanks for your efforts. I found this article on a recent cruise on the Carnival Cruise Line ships who have this machine in their casino under a different name "Casino Vault". After I had dropped $60 over the course of three days and noticed things weren't adding up, I decided to investigate why. I went looking for the manual and found you had beaten me to it, for the exact same reasons. Hopefully, your keen work can dissuade others from losing money on a rigged game.
I know now that I have playing the games that have been playing me instead of me playing it.i will never play the games that are smarter than me thanks for the help on the games 
My wife was a lucky one. She actually won $200 on the machine that was on our cruise. But it did take her 17 tries before she hit it lol
I would like to see the manual anyone can help me out 
If this in fact the case, then I can see these machines getting banned, or at least removed from the places they are usually found.  Why? - well if they are not a game of skill, then they are gambling.  My first thought is that only Nevada allows you to gamble in the places you currently find Keymaster.
Thanks for your link Paul. Would you mind sharing with me where you found this manual? I've been searching google for the past 2hrs and your the closest I've gotten. Where can I find this manual? And where can I find other arcade manuals? Thanks again! -Cheers
Where is the 1.6mm part, can't find it
I play this game all the time. I have won 7 times on the KeyMaster. Two iPads 4 $50 gift cards and one camera. I play this game a lot and have won more than what I have put in it. It's hard to believe this..........
Then keep playing it hard and take it for all its worth,  because the manager will figure out how to change that awfully quick once he gets his calculator out.
Just wasted ten bucks on one before I found this. Glad I did.
"Some people say that if you're timing is just right (Most likely would be luck) That you will make it into the hole..."

thats what she said
I just won an ipad today on my fifth try!
My buddy put one in a local pizza place he owns, do you have entire manual. Bumms me out I own 4 "real" arcade games in there the owner of this game pitched my buddy on fact that you can win etc. Like I said it is a local pizza place in small town so a bad rep is REAL BAD. Do you have manual or know of any other redemption games with better payouts or that are not rigged. It actually is OK for me and my friend fro a business standpoint gets more people playing my games (and assuming he gets 50 50 split before prizes) but the guys loosing money are my friends (small town).
For everyone looking for the manual for Sega Keymaster it's right here.  Just click "Powered by Google Docs" in OP for your copy.

I clicked but it is only one page do you have rest if not no worries

John N Yaroslaski PE
685 Main St. Suite A
Morro Bay, CA 93442
Tel. 805.772.0150
Cel. 805.857.2570
Eml. ****@**

Sent from my iPhone
I say get strong fucking magnet and put it to the class and move the key yourself.
2x4 would work the one at pizza place finally paid out ds and money box only took 3 weeks. Hit both one night to couple kids lame
in about a 2 weeks and a day someone wins at the keymaster i go to.
Nobody said you can't win my point was the operator needs to let the owner of the location the odds so the owner of the restaurant, arcade, etc is aware of the statistical odds of winning, the operator can set the odds for each level from 1 win per 1-9999 plays (dfault is 700). This is a statistical average so you could win twice in a row but on average the game pays out every 700 plays per row at default settings. It is very much like a stot machine disguised as a game of skill.
so, theoretically if you deliberately aim 1.5mm below what you aim for, then you can get the prize every time????
Nope, 1.5mm low is what the game gives you if the minimum cash intake for that row hasnt been reached yet.
So even if you aim low if the row hasn't reached it's minimum value it won't pay out?  That's gambling not a game of chance.  I thought you couldn't do that.
The rigging system makes the core gameplay gambling. A player is gambling on wether or not the game is allowing you to win, based on the number of times it has been played. This function is accepted and regulated at casinos, but it's not controlled in arcades. I'm trying to get this class of games shut down in Georgia.
Can you find the full SEGA Key Master operator's manual from which you pulled this single page? I'm building a case and need the whole thing for review.
I've been watching the Key Master at my local Denny's and have noticed a couple of things.
1) It says right on the machine that it's a game of chance, which if it isn't as this manual suggests means that is false advertising.
2) The operator changed out the prizes.  There were two Kindle Fire HDs and a tablet on the middle row, a TV an Ipad and something else expensive on the top row.  Everyone kept going for the middle or top row and lost.  Then with no prizes won the operator switched out all the prizes for cheaper prizes.  A nook and $100 gift cards.  Those prizes were won shortly after the switch and were then replaced with the Kindle Fire HD and other items.

It seems to me this gives credence to the whole it's random/gambling instead of skill.  The operator lured people into play with the expensive items then when it reached whatever preset number they programed they swapped it out for cheaper prizes.  Once those were won they switched back to the expensive prizes to rack up the money knowing it wouldn't pay out...
Gambling requires the trait that you be able to win something for the stake that you offer, in this case $1. If the preset amount isnt met, its impossible that your dollar will give you the chance to win. The Key Master machine is not gambling, by definition. And its not skill, by definition. Its a crowd sourced vending machine for retail items that have been marked up in price.
+Patrick Kelliher
By that definition it's still false advertising even if it isn't gambling.  It's marketed as a game of skill and it is not.  There is a sticker right on the game that says it is based only on your skills at the game.  So as long as the manual page shown here is correct this game is tricking people into spending their money which is fraud.
My exposure with the machine was at a casino.  So, it was presented to me as gambling.  I was playing "Casino Vault", which is the Key Master machine with new signs attached.  There were no indications or stickers presenting it as a skill game.  Which weve understood it not to be, either anyway.  It's grifting two industries, quite the accomplishment.
+Patrick Kelliher I'm talking about the Key Master game, presented in SEGA's marketing literature as a game of skill. It's only a game of skill when the programming decides it's earned enough money to become one. For the first 30 to 800 attempts (depending on PCB controller settings), it's meant to be "impossible" to win. Now for the real legal question... would the courts consider hitting a fly with a bow and arrow from 100 yards away "a game of skill" since it's technically possible? That's the BS legal loophole that LAI GAMES uses in their product manuals.

Of interest: LAI Games (maker of Stacker and others) recommends a payout of 30%, meaning for every $100 the game takes out, it should dispense $30 in prizes [on average over time]. Slot machines are generally programmed to pay out as winnings 82% to 98% of the money that is wagered by players. These "skill games" are a goldmine for operators.
+Spencer Cotter It's definitely false advertising. That's why I'm trying to bring a case against these devices. Not only is it gambling with the opportunity to play a skill game if you win, in Georgia, the prize value for items that get dispensed on a single game play aren't supposed to exceed $5.
The game doesn't screw the players the operator of the game screws the players.

The game has to have a payout rate but it just needs to be reasonable. Like cody said above there are 3 tiers on this game typically 200± dollar prizes on top 50± or so mid less than 20 bucks bottom. You can't payout a 200 dollar prize with every credit it has to be reasonable for each level.

After I talked to my buddy who owns the local pizza place (see above post) he had the operator change the payouts to match the prize and level. If all top prizes are worth 200 each to expect a payout of less than 300 is crazy he has to pay electricity, maintenance, etc. My games (golden tee, big buck, etc) have no payout at all unless I host tournaments then it is 100% skill noone who plays casually will ever win. Once my buddy had operator change settings the game pays out way better people are happy with the new payouts a couple little kids won top level prizes and my drunk buddy who only played 4 times, and made fun of anyone who played, won an autographed joe montana jersey. Problem is the guy (operator) is now not making as much money so he is bummed but if he changes odds and payouts go down no one will play.

Personally I will never play the game but that's my choice I don't find it fun but for some poeple the chance to win is worth the buck they are paying. I would rather put 3 bucks in my golden tee and play 18 holes of golf and drink a couple pitchers with my bros.
My core argument is that payout should be governed by 100% skill. It's lazy and deceptive to design a game that LOOKS like it's skill based, but only becomes so AFTER it has reached a point of profitability. Players are gambling on whether or not the machine is winnable when they approach it. If they win that bet, they get to play a skill based game. Profitability be damned. Find another way to make money that's legal.
I agree for most part. I think at a minimum the payout should be clearly posted on the machine. The fact that you cant find the manual for this game should make people suspect. The only reason the guy changed his game is because I found the manual on this post and brought it to the owner of the restaurant's attention. profitability can't be damned or we should all move but it needs to be controlled by educated costomers. That is why the game should be labeled correctly then the consumer can decide to be a fool. you can't regulate stupid. oh also payouts can happen inside the limits after the guy changed his game top row paid out 4 times in 2 weeks but only because we pressured him to change it. He had game in another local spot they ran him out we are about to do same thing.  
I have no problem if it's gambling or pure skill. To do bait and switch though is wrong.  The one I saw(which they switched out all the prizes to cheap ones just before people won) has a sticker that clearly says "This is not a game of chance and is based only on your skills at operating the machine".
That sort of false advertising is wrong.
In Oregon where I live the lottery commission says that a game of chance for consideration is what defines gambling. This being a set payout like a slot machine makes it a game of chance not skill. if it was truly a game of skill then no worries, but it isn't. The operator who placed and services this machine is trying to tell me that their machine is not the one that you can set the income value on. But from what I have seen everywhere there are 2 of these machines. A "Win everytime" and the standard version. I don't care if it is gambling or not, the government shouldn't tell me what I can spend my money on anyhow. I just don't want it to be represented as a game of skill, when in fact, it is a game of chance.
The operator is full of crap. Same thing happened to us so we showed him the sheet from the manual and basically said change it or pull the machine. The operator can set payouts to 1 on all levels then it is a game of skill. The deviation would not go into affect. The owner of the business the game is in needs to let the operator know its not cool it's their reputation.
I am demanding that they give me my 83 tries on a game of skill as it was touted to be. I don't want my money back.. I want what I bought, which is 83 tries at a prize. if I don't get it they get a call in to the lottery commission and this time I give names and locations.
Ya you should one of my buddies won a top level item two days ago the operator put it too close to opening so key went through hit item then pulled back out. He was actually an employee of the place, three locals witnessed it the operator wouldn't give him prize. Owner of the place is bummed locals are bummed employees are bummed owner of game could give a hoot. Need I say that machine is going to have some issues ;)
John, you should first ask them if "payout management" is active in the games. Most of these games have on/off payout management systems. SEGA (Keymaster) and others made by LAI GAMES use them, but they're optional. For your request to be fair, you would want to informally confirm that the payout management systems are running. If the ARE on (which they usually are by default), then you have a fair request. In most cases, there is a display inside the game around the coin mechanics that shows how many plays the machine has had since the last payout. Maybe you could just get them to open the door for a peek.
The key game is set like in the manual above operator manages with payout numbers 1 being skill based (could pay out any time no deviation from target) up to max amount (I think 9999 credits per payout) there are other games like stacker that have a difficulty setting, like any other arcade or video game, and payout value. So stacker you can set payout to 1 (example not how actually done) and difficulty to high. I am actually considering replacing the game in my buddies restaurant with a payout game (I already own 4 arcade games there) probably stacker and set it up difficulty only with coupons free t shirts etc as low level prize and local gift cards etc and some electronics high level. Stacker is progressive so you can pretty easy win low level prizes harder top level. I think that Is a better game plus more play time. The key game is lame (even though I let my kid talk me into putting 3 bucks in). He had fun but a buck for 15 seconds is a rip

Sent from my iPhone
I spoke with the owner in detail and he insists that they do not have payout management on. However I am still not buying it. The arm moved several times AFTER I let go. Multiple people saw it. The odd part is it moved about 1.5mm which is about the default compulsory upper deviation setting. So they say it isn't on, but it does deviate after realease about 20% of the time.. which I am guessing is my success rate without deviation.
If he's insisting, ask him to show you. Tell us exactly which machine you're playing and we can look it up. You'd be able to verify the settings. Regardless, this is an industry that needs some regulation. It's no different than rigged slot machines or gas pumps that don't pump the stated amount. LAI Games (maker of Stacker and others) recommends a payout of 30%, meaning for every $100 the game takes out, it should dispense $30 in prizes [on average over time]. Slot machines are generally programmed to pay out as winnings 82% to 98% of the money that is wagered by players. These "skill games" are a goldmine for operators because they're designed to look like games of skill when in fact they're very specific about how they rake in player money. Stacker even has something a "mercy payout" system that can spit out tickets like a consolation prize. "Oh well, at least I got some tickets. I'll try again!" LAI Games even states in their Stacker operator's manual, "Most players who reach the Ticket Level will continue to play for the Major Prize believing they can reach it easily".
I have put $10 into a local Key Master game. I have played computer/video games most of my life and as such I have acute sensitivity to lag/delay. The game definitely keeps moving the key up another millimeter after releasing the button if you are in the 'win' zone. No such delay in releasing the button is experienced if you are outside the 'win' zone. This is most definitely not a game of skill, but made to look like one. It is deceptive and fraudulent. State governments need to step in and regulate these games.
There is no doubt about it. There is what they label as a Compulsory upper deviation and there is a setting for that with a default of I think 1/16 of an inch. The company that ran this machine gave me a refund of my $50 rather than run into the issue of being reported to the gambling commission. It is a game of chance not a game of skill. A game of skill has no deviation that is compulsory, it is pure skill. This game is not skill based in as much as that you cannot determine when the quota has been met and the deviation turns itsself off. A slot machine is run in a similar fashion. It has set payouts and will not pay out more or less than it's setting. So you have a chance to win and it has nothing to do with skill. This game is similar, and therefore should be only legal in gambling halls. Although I don't agree with the law, it is a law. people should be able to gamble if they want and the government should only be there to protect us and make sure interstate commerce runs smoothly. But I guess that will never be.
Hey Paul Hull,
Can you get me the full KeyMaster manual? The one page is decent, but I'm trying to collect more information on the payout management system the game uses. I need more than one page for legal purposes and I can't find this specific manual anywhere.
just buy a key master get the package, then return the item back to the sender after scanning the entire manuel. As i see no other way other than to purchase the key master itself to get a copy of a setup/instructional manuel.
That's funny Ronald. It obviously exists and I don't think shipping a ton of freight to my house is a good way to get the user manual. Plenty of other games have their manuals online as PDFs. Hull obviously got his hands on one, presumably without buying a unit.
I will look into where I found it, give me a bit.  Juggling a lot right now.  
As this is now the top search result when you search for the sega key master, I would be interested in someone from Sega contacting me.  I will continue to look through my archives.
I believe their are other means of getting it... say someone leaks out the actual PDF file, or manuel (scanned in) outside of that, i've yet to beable to literally find on any website (web crawling and file crawling) segas websites and production lines to find the .pdf file of the sega arcade "Key master". I to would love to see the manuel (digitally copy) of the Key master setup/assembly manuel. I did how-ever find a how-to assemble the machine ingeneral, just no programming/instructions on how it functions beyond what paul hull lists.
The original source I downloaded this file from has removed it, I am trying to locate the file on one of my backups, but it may take some time.
If you want to "build a case" then go buy the damn machine for yourself. Then you can get the manual. Remember, there is no business model that allows you to get a $400 IPAD for .50. So if it is skill based, then someone will clean you out pretty quick. Clearly, it is a mixture of both skill and luck. I was going to get one for my arcade, but now I am not simply because people think THEY should win everything for nothing. 
You're missing the point, Brett. It's legal to run a skill game designed to be difficult. Even VERY difficult. It's not legal to design or run a game that secretly changes its variables at an point unknown to the player. A carnival basketball shooting game may use an oval hoop that barely allows the ball to pass, but it doesn't change the hoop's shape during the course of a day. It doesn't go from un-winnable to winnable based on a profit margin. The oval hoop basketball game is consistently difficult and overcome with skill.
I just came back from a Carribian Cruise on a NCL Epic ship that had two of the Ipad games,I watched over 100 people try and not win before I tried it. It's not a game of skill when you let go in the target zone and it keeps going up until out of the win zone. I noticed a small nick in the aluminum bar that the key rides up on and every time I was in the win zone it always went to the mark in the aluminum bar before it stopped. I was thinking about confronting them but had to leave to get back home. I'll never play that game again!!!
Yep i chewed out the guy and posted a sign, although i didnt think of taking a picture, next time when i go to see the movie oblivion ill use my phone and make a mini vid. Basically like a interview... asking "did you know this isn't a game of skill?" and also having the Manuel (on data file via using my tablet) to pull up the .pdf file for the instructions of the keymaster*
Hey Ronald,
I'm sure they know it's not a game of pure skill. BTW, do you already have the user's manual? I'm trying to get my hands on it.
Hey Brian,
I think you might have missed a variable. I've seen in documentation that the defaults for these games tends to be a 20¢ or 30¢ payout, meaning that for every dollar put in, only 20 or 30 cents gets awarded back out as prizes. You're also assuming that the cost is $1 per play. I've seen games like this running at least $2 per play at family fun centers. Namco even has settings for a 12.5% payout rate. Read page 5 of this PDF for Namco's BarBer Cut Lite:
Thanks for the correction Paul! I added the bit about the Namco machine and put in more practical figures for the iPad example on
You seem to be an expert on these machines. I'm thinking of writing several more articles about probability and statistics of winning other casino games likes slots, blackjack, poker, etc. Are you interested in helping?
I'm not really interested. Determining the odds of winning doesn't seem like a thing you could accurately determine. There seems to be too many owner adjustable variables and ZERO information about how difficult the game is to win (with skill) when inhibitors like the "upper deviation" feature are active. As a class, these tricks are called "payout management". I can't find any details about how hard they make it to win. I've found text in some manuals disclaiming that when payout management systems are active, winning IS possible... it's just very very difficult. I took this to mean 'shooting a flying bumble bee with a rifle at 100 yards' difficult. Possible, but outside the realm of eventual.

I've gotten into this issue in an attempt to get the machines shut down or regulated. Interesting fact: Casino slot machines are networked, operated, and industry regulated so that they pay out about 80% of every dollar, leaving 15% for the casino operators. Compare that to these unregulated machines, raking in the inverse from kids with loaded up gaming credit cards that Mom and Dad loaded. Once they money hits the cards, it's just given to the machines regardless of cost per play. If you didn't catch my summarizing thought above, these machines are illegal gambling until they temporarily become skill based games. Players are literally gambling on whether or not the machine is winnable when they approach it. If they guess correctly, they get to play a skill based game for a chance to win a high value prize.
If you're looking for a statistics thesis or something, here's one I've always been interested in... What is the combined square footage of every cigarette that's burning on the Earth at any given moment? Are there 4 million cigarettes burning at any given moment? 5 million? What's the average, and what surface area would that cover? Is something like the state of Rhode Island smoldering 24/7?
I found this game at a local truck stop last night and spent $38 trying to win an ipad but my key would always end up either 1cm too high or about an inch low. After reading this thread and looking in hindsight I am disappointed, but relieved, to be convinced this is a game of chance, not skill. What was unusual to me, and should have been a giveaway is that the inexpensive prizes were on the bottom and the valuable ones on the top BUT the keyholes were all the same size. 
Sorry about the late response Paul, but no i do not have the actual manual, as it turns out the manual is apparently printed out on the machine itself (and i've yet to spend around $5000) to buy the machine, and open it up and take a screenshot of the keymaster game. If i do order it, i will of course take a screenshot, and will upload it and let you know, but then ill of course return the stupid thing right after ordering. No reason to keep a scam machine, other than to buy it just to scan in (if it even has) a actual instruction manual, alongside a screenshot then send it back. I'd love the sue the crap outta companies who do lie about the product. Since the way they word it, make the game very versatile in being legitimate assuming its setting are set to that same setting. ALSO for the manual being online, everything i could find via search engines and through sifting through the websites, even game masters manual instructionaire, it all points to the same manual you have, even as the master manual for instructions. This strongly suggests in my opinion that the instructions are on the device itself (inside on the door panel) or that it has the same manual as the other prize game with similar name.
Hey on the game i have tried this and i got closer but the bottom is longer then the top so it helps if you o a little bit higher then the middle. that should get you closer.
I feel that simply testing the machine, using a laser pointer, a ruler, and also a line to track if the machine is a cheat fails to let me win just to verify i dont clearly suck at the game itself, then i feel that it is rigged. If you cannot utilize pinpoint cheating methods that would work perfectly, how exactly is the system not rigged, if even with 100% GUARANTEED win, you somehow lose due to the machines automated slight 1cm up or down off despite exact presses? To top off the aggravation, how far have you tested out the machine itself and actually verified it isn't a cheating system? If you won once, play again on the next tier record it, same exact method you did on the prize next over same tier and perform that a few times on each level, see how the machine moves up. Despite their being mirrors behind the key master to "make it harder and more of a challenge" failing when thwarted with cheat methods that do not involve internal modification but external cheating (ex: using rulers, laser pen, a string, etc... that doesn't enter the machine and helps you level your stops) then you can their for determine that machine is rigged.

For the humor, after saying wtf to the managers at the cinema movie theaters, and why they lied to people straight to their face, i called em out on it and said prove it. Shortly afterwards, roughly about a month later i noticed new changes to the machine, and people had "won" and they now began taking pictures of people who did win. To my surprise the machine isn't "as rigged" but it still isn't considered that the system is rigged unless you actually set it. Or utilize methods that cheat the system say, rulers, a laser pointer, something to measure the speed of the device/response time of the button with out actually tampering with its programming directly or the controls that control its win/lose/money gain ratios. The end result is though, this machine is considered a gambling system, you cannot win unless a certain specification of $ has been met, and it seems to be done on a per line basis, say you spend $100 and only win a $10 or lesser prize on the bottom. If you meet the requirements for a auto win, then and only then does the game actually become a skill game, and then its not hard to win/beat the system using legitimate or cheating methods. Say you dont meet the requirements of $100 required to win tier 1 prizes, and you spend say $20, the machine will be set to move up 1cm up or 1cm down right before you can fit the key in the hole, thus making it a null/invalid winning option, which then labels the machine as a gamble. If you wanna get the place introuble who has the key master, i suggest just calling whom ever your local agency is who handles gambling, and report it to them. Dont let the place catch on, and then if they take the report seriously you can have the game either be removed from the place due to gambling, unless the device is in a gambling sanctioned zone, ex: Las Vegas, etc..
One problem with verifying illegal activity... The game defaults are set up to "cheat" and ensure major profitability for the game owners, but most of the time they can be disabled by the owner.  That means any allegations of illegal activity would have to be verified by a knowledgeable inspection of the game settings. That kind of knowledge would usually be held by someone at a regulated gaming agency. Something like that probably exists in Vegas to make sure casinos aren't robbing the public blind, but your average "responding officer" isn't going to want to intrude on a profitable local business, ask them to open a machine and start checking dip switches on the printed circuit board. Even if I could get the users manual for this specific game, I'm not likely to get a "gung ho" officer to investigate something so intricate.
As a gamer, and someone who takes pride in winning by skill alone, not by
chance, i take pride in a victory through legitimate means. Not through
cheating means. That means this game of skill is rigged, in that aspect i
will do the most that i can that is within my power to attempt to bring
companies, products, and things of this nature down. These products tend to
bend the rules of "skill" based games, when the skill aspect is only
considered a skill when a certain requirement is met, in this case the
requirement being a money requirement gain before the system then switches
over to it being a skill based game. If im playing a game for the idea
behind winning in a fair way, then the machine shouldn't be advertised as a
pay to win if your skilled sorta ordeal. In my mind thats just dirty
dealing, and considering most peoples mindsets arnt going to jump at "oh
its rigged" when they see it, yeah they'll give it a shot. And that steals
money from those individuals, who are unaware that its a "gamble". IF a
sign is placed on the game that says "This is a gambling game, the only way
to win is if a certain amount of money is spent before you can then win the
prize based on actual skill" I can guarantee those who play a game based on
skill wouldn't play, but those who play the game based on "entertainment"
otherwise would lose their money, and in this aspect it would be considered
just a fun thing to blow a few dollars on (and in that aspect it can be
given as a non gambling game as its listed as entertainment) but we must
not forget, the way the wording is done, and said/advertised, as their is a
ability of legality that plays, say if it says somewhere on the unit that
its for entertainment only, then in that aspect they can get away with it,
but usually its in a hard to find location, or moved to a spot where users
cannot find this marking (on the back, under the machine, or on the inside)
where normal consumers such as yourself and i, wouldn't think twice of
breaking into the machine to
I've been trying to convince people that this new class of games exploits the familiar legacy of skill based games. Familiar themes like "insert peg into slot equals a win" or "get the ball in the hole for points" are common components of skill based games. In these games, the familiarity with the obvious components lulls people into thinking they know how to win. The circuitry and electronic controls become undisclosed variables in the game of skill. That's what makes it essentially dishonest. The undisclosed variables. But is it illegal to have undisclosed variables in games of skill? Do you HAVE to explain the variables? Is it illegal if you can't learn the variables through gameplay?
It is perfectly legal to hide those variables in my opinion. As long as you make it possible to access those resources otherwise, say through the website, or make it available apon request, ex: requesting the manual to the Key master, as it seems they have intentionally pulled the manual from their public server database*.
It is also legal to not explain the variables as long as you make it possible for the consumer to actually have ability to discover the variables through trial and error, or through the manual itself. As long as they leave some form of hint, or way that the consumer can identify and not fall victim to their scam, it isn’t considered illegal. In that aspect that is where word play, and “Unique” placing of hints that suggest the game is “entertainment” or “fun” value only, where the average consumer tends to ignore or not acknowledge (or even remotely think of) the system being rigged, as a majority of people think “hey its just a few bucks whats it hurt to try and get that big expensive prize for so little cost to gamble?” in some peoples eyes it is a gamble, in others it is skill, but in this aspect the system should strongly advertise if it a gambling system (or in other words say its a “entertainment value” based game system, and also utilize the word “this is entertainment and is the same as gambling, skill isn’t really required until system requirements to win are met” so that all users would be basically given the info straight out, instead of having to look for that information on their own (most people will of course ignore looking because well, societies become lazy, lets face it, nobody want’s to use their smart phones, or network enabled devices to identify the problem due to how much effort maybe needed just to identify problems/find solutions/methods to avoid being scammed). If you ask me, more details about hiding the variables from complete access as sega has done, with pulling the ability to get their information via their webpage/order site, i feel maybe dishonest, can pose for a legal lawsuit in some form, but i would hafta investigate further, as some of my family members are lawyers i can consult with them, im just being lazy and hoping someone else will take that initiative to ask a lawyer before i myself bother my family in regards to legal questions and or furthermore crawling the net reading up on the stuff. If you ask me though i feel that it is illegal, and that it can be brought up to a lawsuit if enough points are met, and all methods of contact to get details about the game “key master” by sega, is exhausted, and that they will not release the details or specs/settings of the system. This inturn opens up for lawsuit in the aspect of not even enabling us, the consumers to even investigate the truth so that we may avoid falling victim to a scam, due to that company's intention to show the front all the way to the point where reaching them becomes near impossible (at least on the phone when i called i half to order a device before i get more details in regards to the site, and they continually point me to look at their website, and say the manual is their to download) in which a wrong manual is in place, a “how to assemble” the machine is inplace, more so to probably serve as a excuse of “saving face, but not showing the true mechanics behind the system” so that they can proclaim when that lawsuit comes that “they did make honest attempts to show how the system is “setup” and used” but not explain the full details of how the system works (in this aspect hiding the core part of the system that is basically the major factor that determines if it is a gambling system or a skill based system). Excuses will of course be brought up like their database crashed, or “oh we didnt know we put the wrong manual etc..” things of that nature, before their forced to be honest. Thats where it gets a bit iffy, and that is why you’d need to talk to a Lawyer more so in depth who specializes in the aspect of gambling, and the differences of if it is legal, or illegal to not give us the consumers a fair chance at of course identifying and protecting ourselves from scams, and ploys that machines like this use. 
I think consumers expect the game to be challenging, but not unfair. In Georgia law, games like KeyMaster are classified as "Bona fide coin operated amusement machines". I had to look up the definition of "bona fide", but it's latin for "made in good faith without fraud or deceit". When the program overrides user control of the game so that it prevents an otherwise skillful win, that's dishonest. Especially when the game instructions presented to the user are this simple:

There's no "amusement only" signage since this isn't an amusement only game. If it were amusement only, it would be required to award the player with free replays. It also would certainly cost less than $2 per play. Georgia law states that a player must be in control of the device's timing. They also say the in-game prizes must have a wholesale value no greater than $5.

Now picture a 13 year old kid playing the game with a card that daddy loaded up with $40. He's not thinking about software overrides and upper deviations. He's dropping $2 per play into that machine he just saw because the game says he only needs to insert tab A into slot B to win that iPad he wanted for Christmas. Even if he were resourceful and knew about our discussion, he might still play the game. The difference is, he's now playing KeyMaster thinking the game is "ready to pay out". He would have transitioned to gambling mode by taking a chance on wether or not the game is winnable if he plays it properly. And the house takes in their 80¢ on the dollar profit from that machine. This is all possible, not because they've created a skill based game like skee-ball, but because they've tricked the consumer into thinking they were playing a skill based game like skeeball. If all the player had to do was fit a 199mm peg into a 200mm slot from 12 inches away, that would be bona fide. But no... they ask you to fit a 180mm peg into a 200mm slot via a "fly by wire" control system that prevents a win until a large profit percentage is ensured. That's not bona fide.
This might be a little off subject, but I recently won several prizes over a couple of weeks playing a Barber Cut Lite Machine here at a local mall. The "prize" I received was actually just a box with a certificate inside and and a number to call. The company operates out of Redlands, CA (I am in colorado). And they require that you ship them the undamaged box before they will ship your prize. 

Everything was fine for the first two prizes I claimed, I received the actual item in the mail within about 2 weeks. However the company is now refusing to ship me last prize I won, a pair of beats audio headphones. I have already shipped them the prize box which they acknowledge receiving. When I finally got ahold of someone on the phone, the lady told me that that machine was vandalized and that the prize I won was stolen and she could only refund me the money I played.

I did not cheat or vandalize this machine in any way. I asked her if she filed a police report regarding the vandalism and she said yes and that she would mail me a copy (which I haven't received). I checked with the mall security where the prize was won and they denied knowledge of any vandalism to this machine on the date this lady claims.

This lady was lying through her teeth to me and then she hung up on me. I know that she just doesn't want to send my prize and is angry that someone is skilled enough to beat her machine. After all the money I spend in those machines I deserve my prize, but I'm not sure what I can do about it. 

Has anyone experienced something similar? Do I have any legal recourse? What should I do? Any suggestions or help would be appreciated.  

You could take them to small claims court, but the case would probably have to be filed in the state where you mailed the boxes. It's a lot of hassle for a pair of Beats. If they're already hanging up on you when you call, you don't have many other options. What state are you playing in?
I work on these machines for a living. Our keymasters are set to pay out at a certain percentage (which is an industry standard) and I'm proud to say that our merchandisers always fall within a few percentage points of that number. Calling them a "ripoff" isn't really fair, but if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. I can also post manuals, if someone is looking for something in particular. 
Hey Justin,
I'd love to get a Keymaster manual. Apparently it exists within the game hardware and can be "extracted", maybe as a PDF or something.

I have to call the games "rip offs" because they aren't truly bona fide games of skill. Games of skill shouldn't need to be set to pay out at certain percentages. That's a gambling feature. Games of skill are supposed to be difficult games of skill. Keymaster is posing as a relatively easy games of skill while the electronic controls prevent wins. Players aren't allowed to see the results of their efforts because they're not in direct control of the game's moving elements. Someone may have exhibited perfect skill and released the controls at the perfect moment, but because they game prevents them from winning because it's not set to pay out.

Saying that your machines always pay out when they're supposed to just reinforces the fact that they're gambling machines and not games of skill.
I'll scan my paper copy of the manual and post it later.

as far as skill vs. chance, there are settings on the keymaster that makes it so it is impossible to win before you hit a $ in threshold. that setting can also be turned off so that every play has the potential to be a winner. we always turn that setting off.

I agree that games like this (that seem to be "easy" but are actually difficult) are frustrating from a player's standpoint. if i had my way, we wouldn't have these machines at all. alas, i am just the guy that fixes them.

modern plush crane machines work the same way, by the way. (electronic controls that dictate the payout percentage) it's just a lot easier to win a 4 dollar teddy bear than a 600 dollar ipad.

If you turn that feature off, what governs your payout rate? You said your games payout within a few percentage points of a number. Are you saying there's an "impossible" mode and you're operating with a "very very hard" mode? To my point, if these were honest and bona fide games of skill, they would manage the difficulty by making the key hole smaller. Granted, that's a hardware variable and not easy to change, but that should be worked out in the game development phase. Playing Keymaster is like playing Skeeball if there were magnets under the lane, randomly affecting the ball's path until sufficient revenue is generated to warrant operation. The size of the Skeeball point holes looks right, but everything in between is manipulated.
Thanks for posting the manual! I'm running OCR on it so I can search the contents.
i think one page is missing but it is just an exploded parts list page. the settings pages are all there, along with the schematics. 
So... page 12 makes mention of a "Compulsory Upper Deviation" measured in millimeters. By definition, a compulsory deviation would be "an action of departing from an established course as required by law or a rule".

As someone that works on these machines for a living, can you tell me how the manufacturers explain this type of detail to the game buyers/operators? They obviously are programmed with defaults that are likely to be profitable. Does SEGA answer questions or do you turn to the distributors like BMI Gaming? 
I'll give them a call and get back to you. 
I put money in one of these and my key went through the hole but key never turned and i was told that i never won because the key has to turn i wasnt happy.
what that means is the game wasn't calibrated properly and even though it went in the hole, the game didn't think it did, so it didn't do the key spin/prize pull thing. I'd have given you the prize. 
I have emailed sega so  hope something will come out of this as when i played i assumed if i get the key through the hole then i won that prize i wouldnt of played this game if it was still a 50/50 chance of winning when i got the key in the correct position i will never play on this machine again.
don't call sega, call the operator of the machine. 
i have done this these are the people who are telling me i havent one anything even though the manager of the pub i won it in saw me win it and told me that i had won it.
that sucks, but sega can't do anything. 
i dont know what else i can do just hope something turns up :)
It's sad, but you simply have to video/record every gameplay from a perspective that shows the win. It's probably true that the operator didn't properly calibrate the machine. The good news is that if you actually WON, the machine will allow your skill to win it again since it hasn't registered a prize redemption.
Just ran into this game and spent ~10 before I got the feeling something wasn't quite right. This post comes up as one of the top Google results for "Key Master arcade", so good to see the information is getting out there. 
Where can I find a keymaster machine to play???
Nobody ever says where exactly they are at....
Pretty sure this is a dead topic, but I thought id let you know all games are set to cheat, even the ones that just give out tickets. While most games are 50% luck and 50% skill, some are not, the ones that arent are all skill, like a game that has you shoot water at a target or catch balls with a cup, or shoot hoops like basket ball. Sega keymaster or any game that gives out big prizes are set to payout after the machine has been played enough to make the money to cover the prize, plus some extra. Thats where the luck comes in, for example lets say you wanted the ipad and its normally 500 bucks, well figure they wanna make 200 on that ipad, so say 700 bucks value, and say the game is $2.00 a play you would need that game to be played  350+ times before you have a chance at winning, then it comes down to skill, there is of course some variance but not much. The stacker machine is the same, and some ticket games have adjustable odds for the big payouts. The thing is you dont know if you are player number 99 or player 349 and that next attempt will let you win. I would like to point out though that all games will eventually payout, reason is to make it completely impossible is against the law, which is why many companies take pictures of their big winners, so they cant be sued for fraudulent gaming.
The fact that "payout" is an applicable term with these games makes them gambling machines. A programmed payout rate puts these games in the same category as slot machines. Undisclosed variables that override player input prevents them from being "bona fide games of skill". When you decided to play the game, you're literally gambling on whether or not it's winnable at the time of play.
You are absolutely right, it is gambling, but you cannot really expect otherwise, simply because offering a prize worth 500 for a 2.00 on a fair shot just isnt gonna happen unless the game is really really really hard. Case in point, any state lottery, you have a fair shot evertime, but the odds are 1 in a billion or more (really really really hard). They do that so that the game is easier but it relies more on luck, otherwise a game that difficult wouldnt be worth playing. What it boils down to, you or anyone else is paying for the entertainment value of playing a game, with a chance of winning something, sometimes something big. All games of this nature are set up this way so the facility has a way of managing losses, if it wasnt for this safety net for facilities, they simply wouldnt exist as they do now, all games would be like the arcades we were used to back in the day minus the ticket machines. The games that are "bona fide games of skill" are the ones with smaller payouts, usually in ticket form and are all skill. Like i said a majority of these games are 50% skill and 50% luck, some states actually require these game to payout everytime, so they dispense a small trinket after each play regardless, which is called a "winner every time kit".
The game should be really really really hard. Instead, the designers have "gotten lazy" and decided to make a game that (on its face) looks winnable, but is instead overriding player's skill. As for the lottery comparison, the lottery odds are disclosed as a condition of playing and it's not a skill based game.

Here's a "keymaster lottery" analogy...
You have a tillion dollar lotto prize. Players pick their own numbers. The lotto commission sees all the numbers picked by players and chooses their  own numbers to prevent weekly wins. After the lottery rakes in 1.8 trillion, they let a random number win and everything seems normal. I use 1.8 trillion in this example because Keymaster is programmed by default to allow a win after keeping 80¢ of every dollar it takes in. If you award a $500, iPad, it's only after the game takes in $900.
I wish the kids pumping their parents money into these games were playing them for entertainment value. They're not. You know they're trying to win the high value prize with skill. As for the legacy business model, it used to be that $30 worth of gameplay got you $1 worth of rubber finger puppets. THAT was the business model. They managed losses by dispensing crap as prizes.
I won on 3 bucks then couldnt stop wanting to play then spent 25 but I know I was right on but nothing that brought me here wow 
omo kok
Hi Paul, I came across this site while researching key master. I'm thinking about putting one of these in my business. 

The way I look at it, the payout ratio might just be a protection feature. I think an expert player can actually win on the very first try on a new machine. But after that, the game will stop paying out until the ratio is met. It's there to protect the owner.. otherwise it's just a free ATM machine. 

That being said.. I do agree that 1/700 win rate is insane. It'll piss off people big time, as proven by this thread. ;-) 
As soon as the game prevents direct player control of the mechanical components, it stops being a game of skill and is a game of chance. I don't disagree that a mechanism needs to exist to prevent the ATM scenario you describe. The difference is that instead of using sufficient measures of challenge to regulate payouts, SEGA has decided to design a game that LOOKS winnable on its face while it literally prevents wins electronically. This is what a slot machine does, and it's why they're illegal or regulated. I disagree that this type of game is easily winnable by experts. It's designed not to be. An expert cannot win if their skill isn't allowed to be applied unadulterated. You can't even become an expert if, as a player, you aren't allowed to witness and learn from your own mistakes. SEGA says KeyMaster is the kind of game operators have been asking for. Check your State COAM laws, but if it says the games must be bona fide, or your single play payout prize value is limited to something around $5 (like it is in GA), you might want to pass on games like KeyMaster or Barber Cut, or Stacker. They are illegal.
aah, you guys are just sore losers, I win every time, let me send you some prizes, Vanessa
I could never find a PDF either. I think Paul Hull printed a hard copy from a ROM or something. He only published the one page and never the whole manual.
I put it all out. Will look again
I know this game is supposed to be rigged. However i won twice this week already. The machine was full but the guaranteed prize slot was full of mini prizes people got just for paying their dollar. I spent 3dollars to win a 50dollar itunes card. And 2dollars the next day and got a 15dollar google play card. I dont know if its all coincidence but i figured it was played alot over the hollidays, because its in walmart. Took a chance and it paid off.
Every video poker game and slot machine in Vegas is set up similarly. Counting cards is illegal - THAT is a skillful endeavor. Newer claw games have closure strength settings, which are bypassed to one full power play every ten games.
If people wish to have games which pay out expensive gifts such as an Ipad or video game system, this is the only way to achieve it. Nobody wants to risk that much money up front without returns.
Sega now has a 100% skill game version called the Prize Locker that I've seen at local Walmart stores. They offer it for operators who live in an area of the world where local or state regulations prohibit the operation of games like Key Master. They also offer a conversion kit for Key Master machines.

Maybe the popularity of this topic and the issues exposed brought this about. 
is that only page to manual you got? doe it have one where it show pat out limts on all machines or how to boot it in like a weird mode with just handle and button?
I won $500 for $6..trying to win again
These games are not rigged. It is true that in many states you can use games that have the ability to set the payout percentage like a slot machine. In many states the games must be skill only like in california or washington. But make no mistake about it. The people that operate these games need to make money off of them or way have them. So maybe the entertainment of trying to win a prize is worth the cost. Prizes are won. you just have to get lucky. I think its more fun to have these games than to not have them. 
And for the record. Card counting is not illegal. A casino has the right to ask you to leave if they want to and the state law affords them that right. They can do that for any reason, including counting cards. But in some states like New Jersey the law does not allow them to ask you to leave because they don't like the way you gamble or for counting cards.
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