Save the Claw Machine in Florida!

An anti-gambling overreach threatens kiddie games.



Back in 2013 Florida saw a massive scandal over a nonprofit organization using gaming cafes across the state to allegedly raise millions of dollars for veterans. The problem was that only a small amount of that money actually went where it was supposed to go. Also, there was gambling. Some people didn't like that.

The state responded by cracking down and cracking down hard on gambling venues within the state. The target of their ban with a new law was supposed to be Internet gambling and video slot machines. Apparently that's not how the legislation ended up working out. The legislation was so broadly written that it could possibly apply to any sort of game that awards any sort of prize worth more than 75 cents. Initially the state was just using the law to crack down on Internet cafes and "senior arcades" that were hosting gambling. But then attorneys for these establishments went, "Hey, wait a minute? Why are we being targeted but not places like Dave and Buster's and kids' arcades?" Why is skee-ball different? Why are claw machines different?

That is a good question and explains why in January, Walt Disney World in Orlando (a company, it's worth pointing out, that has been fighting the legalization of gambling in the Sunshine State) yanked claw machines and redemption games out of all of its parks there. It removed so many that the company that fills and maintains the games for the parks said it would have to reduce its staff as a result.

Now Florida is scrambling for a legislative fix to save Chuck E Cheese and others. Unfortunately, Vending Times notes, this new law, SB 268, won't return things to the way it does before. Instead it turns the whole affair into a permission-based structure with all sorts of rules and regulations about how they work:

Under the proposed law, operators can offer a maximum redemption value of coupons or points a player receives for a single play of a skill-based game from 75¢ to $5.25, with a maximum value of 100 times that amount, or $525, for an item of merchandise obtained onsite using accumulated coupons or points. The maximum wholesale value of merchandise that may be dispensed directly to a player through the machine is limited to 10 times that amount, or $52.50.

The law even determines what types of businesses will be able to operate certain types of machines. Claw machines will be permitted in "a timeshare facility, arcade amusement center, bowling center, a retail premise, public lodging establishment, licensed public foodservice establishment, truck stop or veterans' service organization." What, no strip clubs? What about laundromats? At least pizza parlors are covered, so Disney's Toy Story plot is still safe.

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  1. /leaves the Internet for awhile to clear head

  2. The most interesting part of this article is that there is a publication dedicated to vending machines.

    1. There are trade pubs for everything. It’s awesome.

      1. I bet there isn’t a trade pub for trade pubs.

        1. I think it’s more of a webpage/newsletter?

        2. Why not? There’s a trade association of trade associations.

          1. It’s trade associations all the way down.

    2. Vending machines and amusement games, especially redemption games are a much bigger business than you are aware of.

      The best part of this legislation, for those who run illegal gambling venues and the lawyers who get rich defending them, is the wording of the law.

      “Under the proposed law, operators can offer a maximum redemption value of coupons or points a player receives for a single play of a skill-based game from 75? to $5.25, with a maximum value of 100 times that amount, or $525, for an item of merchandise obtained onsite using accumulated coupons or points. ”

      Ok, all this well paid for legislation hinges upon the phrase ” for a single play”. Now what constitutes a “single play” ? Is a single play every time you put money into the machine ? Is it every time you push the “play” button ? Or is a single play counted as the time you sit down at the machine from the time you stand up ?

      Texas has a similar law and good lawyers are worth their weight in gold to those who run illegal gambling joints.

  3. They actually do have a point. In addition to the traditional claw machine with a bunch of cheap stuffed toys, we have “games” that dispense things like an ipod touch or even a PS4. They are games of “skill” like the claw game, sort of, in that you have to line up a blade with a string and take a cut at it…. but it takes about a million cuts to get the string and the alignment mechanism isn’t exactly spot on and super-responsive.

    Putting down $2 against a $300 electronic device on your skill at popping a balloon with a blunt plastic spike based on timing a spinning light is pretty close to gambling in my book.

    1. Luckily your book isn’t law.

  4. Uh, oh, my daughter loves those.

    1. Install one in your house and get back the allowance money you gave her.

      Of course, you might also get targeted by a no-knock raid for illegal gambling.

    2. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. I usually win so I have a box of stupid toys I don’t really want.

      1. It’s the carney blood flowing through your veins.

        1. A good theory. I can’t explain it. I don’t even want the crap, I just like to play the games. The stupider the better. I won a stuffed dinosaur hitting a lever that threw a rubber lobster into a pot. I can’t help myself.

          1. Carneys who winter in the Redneck Riviera is how FMS (Florida Man Syndrome) gets spread to the rest of the country.

            1. I thought most of them wintered in Gibsonton. That’s just a bit south of Tampa.

              1. I used to work at a bank in Riverview that catered to the carnies. Seriously great people to work with. I was a loan officer back then and at the beginning of the season people would come in for a loan on a new fifth wheel and then pay it off by the end of the season. To look at a carnie you’d think that they didn’t have a pot to piss in but everyone from the show owners on down had aces credit and a good head for money.

        2. Carny folk are good folk.

          1. By all accounts, Typhoid Mary was a nice person.

      2. I beat a bunch of kids at that spray gun game, where you hit the target with the water stream to make your horse race. Won my girlfriend a stuffed Minion.

        Those games are easy if you pick your opponents wisely and have no shame.

  5. OT…..ce-1290566

    HBO’s untethered service HBO Now can only be viewed over an Apple product for the first three months which coincidentally covers all of Game of Thrones’ 10-episode season 5.

    1. wait until the exclusivity contract runs out before watching it on another platform
    2. buy an Apple product
    3. TOR that motherfucker

  6. I remember when the grocery store I worked at in college installed a guaranteed winner crane game claw machine. I just chalked it up to kids being pussies and having to always win something but I can now see a different reason for it.

    1. Getting someone to pay a dollar to win a $.50 prize is a pretty good business model.

      1. That’s why it isn’t gambling. There is no chance of increasing your money. You lose money, even when you win.

        1. You lose money, even when you win.

          Sort of like political elections, then.

      2. 50 cents? Way cheaper (and softer, and better).

  7. I read things like this and sometimes wonder if Terry Pratchett’s Auditors of Reality are real.




  9. I also enjoy illegal games, and claws. You have our gratitude.

    1. When GILMOREs lips move, they don’t match the sounds he makes.

      1. Now take him to be tortured

      2. “Not ‘Craw’. CRAWWW!!”

  10. OT: Ellen Pao bans salary negotiations at Reddit. Women aren’t as good at negotiating, so nobody should be allowed to do it. No wonder Kleiner Perkins ditched her.

    1. Its hilarious.

      One of the two or three things that a Kleiner Perkins needs from its top honchos is mad negotiating skillz.

      So her claim here is that they unfairly dealt with her because she didn’t have one of the two or three core competencies they needed.

    2. When your company ‘business model’ is “just get a lot of users and worry about how to make money later”, i can see why you’d have a low opinion of silly little things like ‘supply and demand’.

  11. Back in my private practice days, I had a client who rented/installed/serviced these things, including a lot of claw machines.

    Holy shit, are they lucrative.

    1. I always just assumed those machines were rigged – lord knows I could never win anything. I hated those fucking things.

      1. But you kept trying.

        1. Not for long. Probably less than a dozen tries in my life. Never was much of a gambler.

  12. “The legislation was so broadly written that it could possibly apply to any sort of game that awards any sort of prize worth more than 75 cents.”

    Yep, and that was pointed out repeatedly at the time, while the bill was still under consideration. Passed anyway, because law enforcement promised that they would only apply it to those who were really truly bad guys. Honest!

    Isn’t there some sort of law about easily-foreseen “unintended” consequences? And there should be another about legislators who repeatedly fall for the same bullshit over and over again from prosecutors and sheriffs.

  13. Classic political and government insanity. Anarchy would be vastly preferable to allowing these “elected” idiots to foist their stupidity off on everyone.

    “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”
    -Gideon J. Tucker, in an 1866 decision on a will.

  14. Just wait till the gay marriage nazis start forcing the claw machine operators to install their games at their weddings.

  15. But claw machines & ski-ball are games of skill. Playing them is a contest for prizes, not a game of chance. Are they swept into this legislation because they’re machines?

  16. Looks like the double-striped “winners” in gumball machines will have to be outlawed too. The only skill in getting them out of the machine is in buying gumballs until one comes out.

    However, when I was in grade school I had numerous hustles that I recount to the amusement of people who like to reminisce about misspent youth. These schemes allowed me to have more cash in my pockets than many adults did. One of the simplest ones was to just buy a box of gumballs and paint stripes on the yellow ones, then redeem them for my prizes (usually candy bars or a coke) at the businesses hosting the machines. None of my marks ever questioned my “luck.” But I spread the scam around (different stores, different days and times, different attendants) so as not to be too noticeable. Social engineering is such fun. And it was all good training for one of my future careers in Medicare fraud investigation.

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