It was bound to happen sooner or later. Soon, gambling opponents will figure out how to spin any activity into having ties to gambling, regardless of how innocuous it may be. Around the world, everyone is familiar with claw cranes, games often seen in arcades and shopping malls where you feed in money, maneuver a claw to just the right position and let it drop to try to pick up a prize. They’re fun, sometimes challenging and also require a certain amount of skill. However, according to Thailand, they’re nothing more than another form of gambling and, as such, they have to go.
According to the Bangkok Post, the Thai Interior Ministry has now banned claw cranes, per an edict passed down by the ministry to all governors across the country on February 19. Any machine that allows customers to pay money or tokens to use a claw to win a prize or play games on screens is now prohibited. Next up, at the rate gambling opponents are going, any type of carnival game where visitors take a shot at throwing darts at balloons or rings on bottles.
Going forward, Thai ministry officials will begin to make their rounds in shopping malls and anywhere else the machines are found. Unlicensed machine operators will initially be given a warning, but, if they continue to break the law, they could be fined or arrested. According to a gambling opponent in the country, citing a recent survey, there are over 1,300 crane claw machines in 75 malls around Thailand.
The argument from the anti-gambling crowd is that the machines teach gambling, an assertion not based on any scientific study or any type of research. They actually teach that life isn’t always going to reward you with prizes, a valuable lesson to be learned. However, the wheels have already been set in motion and the smart money is, with the growing amount of resources being spent on gambling, on this becoming an issue bigger than one isolated to just Thailand.
If the basic debate over what classifies something as gambling is whether or not it is luck or skill, only those that understand the difference need to be calling the shots. Around the world, certain individuals believe, erroneously, that poker is a game of luck. This argument is easily countered by the number of players who routinely perform well at the game. If it were only based on luck, the playing field would be more level and we wouldn’t see people like Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo and others always at the top of the leaderboards.
Claw cranes aren’t in the same league as poker, but anyone who has participated in the activity knows that there is a certain amount of skill involved – knowing where to place the claw and which objects are more likely to be grabbed. There is nothing wrong with regulating the machines – any business should be regulated. However, banning them seems to an extreme and drastic measure that won’t have the intended result.