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