27 Feb

Toy Crane Machines and Slots One in the Same?

The frightening similarities between a kid’s arcade claw machine & adult casino slot machines.

Arcade Claw Machines & Casino Slot Machines Frighteningly Similar

As kids, we all loved playing those prize-bearing claw machines. You know the ones. They’re in almost every grocery store and department store you visit. Malls and arcades are teeming with them! You drop a few quarters in the coin slot and get about 20 seconds to move the crane arm around before it descends onto a plethora of myriad prizes. Children adore them, and even some adults play them for kicks, or in hopes of bringing home a cute plush doll or animal to a loved one.

What kids aren’t allowed to play – and adults flock to much more readily – are slot machines. Every casino from Vancouver to London, Atlantic City to Queensland, lines its gaudy carpets with these blinged-out, incessantly-chiming reel spinners. They come in every theme you can imagine, and plenty more you’d probably never think of on your own.

The favorite arcade of youth, versus the most common gambling choice of adults. Two very different gaming choices, indeed. Or are they? You might be surprised, if not downright shocked, to learn how many similarities there are between…

Toy Crane Machines & Casino Slot Machines

As responsible and knowledgeable adults, when we think of slot machines, we know very well that they are money hogs. Every casino game is designed to profit the house, but slot machines are the most notorious cash-suckers in the casino. Even those with the lowest cost and highest RTP will earn the house more money than a blackjack table based simply on the fact that every game plays out in an average of just 6 seconds.

Yes, we know that slot machines are programmed to take our money. It’s not just a matter of realistic odds anymore, either. In the early days, slots had mechanical reels. The number and type of symbols on each reel determined the probability of winning. Now, they are entirely electronic, without payouts that are random in their timing, but ultimately under the control of the game’s manufacturer. This ensures the casino doesn’t just makes a profit, but the precise profit they wish to make.

No surprises yet, right? Okay, now let’s move on to the claw machines.

We adults may or may not know better, but kids are given the impression that a crane machine is a game of skill. They are intentionally (deceptively) made to believe that if they maneuver the claw into just the right position, it will grab the toy that they want. What they don’t know is the precision programming that goes into the claw’s mechanical make-up.

These games are by no means random. The manufacturer is able to program the gripping power of the claw, and change the strength of that grip after any number of plays. They used to be programmed to grip stronger after an average of 19 plays. That 20th play was the big potential winner. Now, they are even more sophisticated, only tightening the grip after a sequential number of losses. They can even program the claw to grip tightly at first, then release the prize on the way over to the drop box.

You could say that crane machines are skilled based, since placement of the crane does help, but these machines, and the manufacturers that build them, know exactly how much money they will make. They know how many plays lose, and what their minimum profit margin will be. How is this any different from the chance-based gambling enjoyed by adults on casino slot machines?

What makes claw games so much worse is, of course, that they target children. That was the point made by the government of Thailand when it issued a ban on claw machines earlier this week. Now that they’ve initiated a charge against the deceptive nature of these youth-appealing games, I would not be surprised at all if other countries begin to following suit before the year is out.

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