Bill Aims to Define Claw Arcade Games as Skill or Chance

By Brenda Flanagan

We’re playing claw games at The Game Room arcade in Keansburg. Watch us lose.

The claw picks it up and drops it — over, and over and over.

“I think I had that one pretty clearly,” said one player.

Losers — 40-cents a pop and we can’t bag a single plushie. But we’re not the only losers. Lots of people drop a buck and a plushie.

When asked if he won anything in the claw machine Antonio Guzman said, “No, I never win nothing. I’m not that lucky.” Is it a matter of luck? “I don’t know, yeah. I think it’s a matter of luck,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s a waste of money. It’s a waste of you pocket money. They’re not cheap, they’re like a dollar,” said Janeth Palacios.

But, wait! Over at the Walmart in Kearny we played a claw machine twice, and won twice. As experts like Clawstruck’s Jeremy Hambly explain on YouTube, sometimes claw games set you up to fail.

“There are a couple ways machines handle payout, but most commonly you’ll see the claw pick up a prize at full strength – then slowly weaken until the prize falls out of it before it gets to the prize chute,” Hambly said. “You have literally zero chance of winning unless the machine says so.”

Hambly says, games can be preset to let just so many people win.

“To entice you to continue playing, to make you think it was simply unlucky that it fell out, and for you to bust out just another dollar,” said Hambly.

“What bothers me is that the owners and people who have the games can make it impossible to win, where you never, ever can win no matter how good or how many times you try,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

Scutari has proposed a law that would ensure the integrity of the game, he says. The Division of Consumer Affairs already does inspect and certify claw machines to keep operators from rigging the games. But Scutari wants a stricter standard.

“Allow people to understand that if it is a game of chance versus a game of skill that they understand that going in — that they don’t think that based on something they do right or wrong that they’re going to win the game,” Scutari said.

Hambly says the machine should be set so it’s a game of skill. The owner of The Game Room had no comment, but we found one player there who bought $20 worth of tokens and won four little plushies.

Does she think that it’s easy or hard to win? “Hard,” said Gina Martinez. “I guess today was my lucky day.”

Now, claw machine experts will tell you they’re not vending machine — these people are trying to run a business. So how often should you win? Sen. Scutari says he’s not sure about that. He’s going to let the experts figure that out when they draft the bill.