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Issue Date: Vol. 55, No. 4, April 2015, Posted On: 4/6/2015

Allegations Of 'Rigged' Skill Cranes Grab Attention

by Nick Montano and Hank Schlesinger
TAGS: coin-op news, skill crane amusement machine, claw game, rigged skill crane, arcade game, TheDJTec, American Amusement Machine Association

An April 3 article on a popular general interest website purported to expose "rigged" skill cranes. The article at Vox.com, which implied that all skill cranes are programmed against the player, is gaining widespread buzz on the Internet. Reposted at Yahoo News and other high-traffic destinations, the story has been tweeted, retweeted and forwarded thousands of times.

This is not the first time accusations of dishonest practices regarding the coin-op devices have been leveled against the industry. In 2012, the entertainment and social networking website Reddit published an IAMA ("I Am A") question and answer session by someone going by the username "TheDJTec" who purported to be a central California arcade operator. During the lengthy online discussion he claimed the games were less than honest. That story was picked up by numerous popular websites including Business Insider, Kotaku and Slate.

The Vox piece, however, includes links and screenshots of claw strength programming pulled from the website of a well-known amusement machine reseller. The article accurately reports that state government regulations of crane machines usually focus on keeping the prize values within legal limits, but it doesn't tell the whole story regarding the skill elements.

For several years now amusement industry leaders have been advocating strict self-policing policies, encouraging vendors to operate their equipment and redemption programs in strict adherence to the law. And more and more states are closely monitoring prize-awarding amusement games. In Maryland and Georgia, for instance, such games must be registered with state lottery divisions. But in most states, the laws are unclear and regulations of crane machine operators are sometimes lumped into archaic gambling laws, many older than 60 years.

Industry expert and American Amusement Machine Association government affairs chairman Rick Kirby has been urging vending operators to understand the prize redemption rules in their states. One way to do this is join the state trade association, Kirby said. "And until you know the rules, use common sense," he added.

Leading amusement vendors are moving toward 100% skill offerings on their routes and in their gamerooms, or simply giving away a lot of prizes. Additionally, some factories, LAI Games, among them, have eliminated the "auto-percentaging" feature on their new machines.

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