26 Feb

Arcade Claw Machines a Form of Gambling?

Thailand bans toy-bearing crane machines as illegal gambling games.

All over the planet, children (and even some adults) delight in the chance to win a cheap but lovable toy from a claw machine. You’ll find these crane-based, prize-bearing encasements in arcades, malls and department stores worldwide. Or at least, you once did. Don’t expect to find them in Thailand anymore.

Thailand Bans Toy-Bearing Crane Machines as Illegal Gambling Games

As of now, the government of Thailand has decided that claw machines that award toys and candy may not be the innocent games we once thought, but rather a form of gambling. Because all forms of gambling, aside from horse race betting and the national lottery, are illegal in Thailand, these crane machines are now illegal, too. The fact that they are accessible to minors make them doubly illegal.

Crane Machines Now Illegal Gambling Games

Minister Pawin Chamniprasart of the Interior Ministry issued an order declaring claw machines to be illegal forms of gambling. The prohibition extends only to the mechanical versions that do not guarantee a prize. Crane machines that promise to award some prize in exchange for the monetary cost of play are still permissible.

Most of Thailand’s crane machines – most of the world’s, for that matter – do not guarantee a prize. They offer only the chance to win a plush toy, doll, miniature basketball, etc. The claw machines that are still legal – those that do guarantee prizes – are most often candy machines, where the claw grips a random number of small candy pieces and dispenses them to the player.

Henceforth, if a machine of the illegal nature is found operating anywhere in the country, its operator could face anything from a stern warning to a multitude of penalties, including lofty fines and/or extensive jail time.

Good Clean Fun or Proliferation of Problem Gambling?

For decades, the world has enjoyed claw machines as a form of good, clean fun. Children all over the world drop their coins in the machines in hopes of winning a prize. But is it really an innocent game, or are these machines promoting addictive gambling behavior among today’s youth? Minister Chamniprasart believes the latter to be the case.

The fact that a prize is infrequently won is the most concerning aspect of these games. In fact, these machines are mechanically programmed to lose far more often than they win. Remind you of anything? A slot machine, perhaps? It’s true though. Moving the claw doesn’t mean a player’s results are based on skill. Thailand says it actually presents children with a false perception of skill.

The claws can be programmed to only grab at full strength in one of out any specified number of plays. It can be programmed to release a prize before the claw slides over the prize door. These deceptive features allow manufacturers to determine their own profit margin – just like the programmed payout percentages in slot machines.

Crane Machines All Over the World at Risk?

As ridiculous as it may sound, yes. Crane machine manufacturers all over the world should be worried. Thailand might not seem like a big threat compared to major countries like the US, Canada, and Great Britain, but all it takes is an idea to change the global thought process.

Ten years ago, “loot boxes” were enjoyed by PC and console video gamers everywhere. They competed for them, spent money on them, and when possible, auctioned off their contents to the highest bidder. All it took was the UK issuing an opinion that these in-game mechanics could be enticing children to gamble to set off a firestorm of controversy that led to the end of chance-based gaming loot.

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