SACRAMENTO, CA -- The California Bureau of Gambling Control is notifying retail chains "suggesting" they remove skill cranes, according to the California Entertainment Machine Association. The bureau is part of the California Department of Justice, which regulates legal gambling activities in California.
BGC believes that cranes and other prize-awarding machines are illegal devices under California Penal Code, sections 330a, 330b and 330.1. Grocery chain Safeway reportedly is following this bureau's advice, affecting hundreds of machines serviced by several operating companies.
In related news, a San Diego woman has filed a class action suit against Denny's, claiming that the restaurant chain "engaged in unlawful business acts to earn higher profits by exposing its patrons to illegal gambling devices and providing them with opportunities to gamble. Denny's conduct violates public policies tethered to laws that are designed to protect the public against the deleterious effects of gambling." Ashley Cheesbrough claims that Denny's encourages illegal gambling by offering "games of chance" in the arcade sections of its restaurants.
Early this year, California lawmakers introduced a measure that would prohibit offering cash or items exchangeable for cash in amusement games. The bill (AB1103), which was unanimously approved by the State Assembly and is now in the Senate, was sought by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The “no cash prize” law was seen as a positive development for the vast majority of California’s operators, except those few who engage in the practice of attaching cash to playfield toys, or flaunting wrapped and weighted currency on pusher games. Both acts have drawn increased attention to merchandisers and, subsequently, increased enforcement on them. | SEE STORY
According to Richard Scherer of the Pelican Group (Danville, CA), a vending equipment management company, there have been some amendments added to AB1103 that could restrict amusement games, and their prizes, that would impact the entire California amusement industry. He further warned: "Should California pass this legislation in the current form, it is very possible this could sweep the country allowing law enforcement to shut down a significant piece of our legitimate businesses."
Amid the crisis in California, Scherer is organizing an advocacy and defense campaign to "rectify the 'wrong' opinion of California's DOJ regarding the operation of legal merchandisers in California." He has retained an attorney and lobbyist for the fight in California.
In conjunction with Rich Gerhardt of National Entertainment Network (Broomfield, CO), a nationwide operating company, a trust has been created to help combat adverse legislation. The Amusement Game Defense Trust is seeking to raise enough money to not only make AB1103 good for California operators, but also to have funds ready to fight bills in other states, if and when they surface.
The trust is trying to raise a minimum $250,000 and Scherer is urging industry members to contribute immediately. He recommends that larger companies consider $5,000, and smaller companies at least $1,000. The cost for California's movement is already over $50,000. The trust has established a steering committee that includes Scherer, Gerhardt and George Smith of Family Entertainment Group (Barrington, IL). Inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send checks to:
Amusement Game Defense Trust
630 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215