Division of Consumer Affairs inspects boardwalk arcade games for violations

By Brenda Flanagan

Kids cheered wildly today when Daniel Newton pulled an mp3 player out of the claw machine in a Point Pleasant boardwalk arcade after only a couple tries. Play costs $2 a pop.

“I just started like looking to see if it was lined up to the bag and I just clicked it and picked it up,” Newton said.

Inspectors from the Division of Consumer Affairs watched and smiled, but got right down to business and started testing the game machinery. They’ve been inspecting boardwalk games and retailers for the past two weeks.

“Right now it looks very weak, the strength of the claw, so we’re going to have them check it out,” said Division of Consumer Affairs Inspector Bruce Hurlburt.

Inspectors also checked the game’s electronic guts looking for certified software.

“See, it says “New Jersey”? And the version? If this game said “universal” then this program would not be lawful in the state of New Jersey and would have to be removed. But it has “New Jersey” so therefore it is certified, which means, of course, you can win,” said inspector Joe Chessere. “It’s a game of skill and a game of chance.”

“These have to be fair. They’re games of chance, let’s give people a chance to win. And that’s really why we’re here, to make sure that people have the confidence that when they come to the boardwalks here in New Jersey that they’re going to be treated fairly,” said New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino.

New Jersey’s attorney general walked the boards with inspectors today. He’s right that some people, especially those that blow $40 in an arcade, do have their doubts about game fairness.

“Nah, they’re fixed. They make money. You go to grab the prize, it grabs it, by the time it gets to there, they’ll drop it,” said Lucretia D’Amato.

No evidence of that here today. In fact, one kid raked in 500 tickets in a circus game. He’s practically a pro.

“There are some games that take your money and don’t give you good amounts of points. This game is not one of them,” said Adam Schneider.

But state inspectors have so far found 38 actual violations in 20 out of 50 businesses in both Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights. Compare that to 127 violations for the past three years combined. Fines can range from $250 to shutting down the game. Violations included over inflation in a basketball toss game. But today, they checked out just fine.

“It’s usually between seven and nine pounds. When they’re over inflated they bounce a lot more and it makes it more challenging for the player to get it in,” Hurlburt said. “We’ve had, especially at some county fairs, they’re in the 20s, so they’re bouncing to the moon and back. That’s a problem.”

Player skill is a big factor, too. Especially in whack-a-mole.

NJTV photographer Brendan Smyth beat me, but let me pick a Hello Kitty plushie.

The attorney general said we don’t want to be too hard on the businesses, but we think doing this is good in the long run because it encourages people’s trust.