This is how some walking / carnival games are rigged

Ah, the appeal of the stuffed kitsch. How it attracts you. Step up guys!

This is the time of year when the boardwalk games and carnival barkers are in all their glory. We know we’re putting down five or ten dollars to try and win a prize that probably costs two. But that’s part of Jersey’s summer charm, so we’re going with the flow. It’s not the price, it’s the irony and the atmosphere of it all. It is the experience.

Yet you know that deep down, these games are harder to win than they appear. You have heard that they are sometimes rigged against you.

Let me stop there and point out that not all games are scams, and not all boardwalk barkers have a bad reputation. It’s just that it happens. Every year, the Department of Consumer Affairs sends inspectors to rides, carnivals, and amusement parks to make sure the games are booming.

This does not mean that game owners are not allowed to make victory unlikely. That means they can’t make it downright impossible.

A good example of this is the interior of many arcades. The claw machine. You played it. The one where the claw seems insanely weak to actually grab the prize or grab it but lose it halfway through the winner’s fall.

There’s a reason you’re noticing it.

Turns out some of these claw machines are way more high-tech than you might think. Did you know that these machines can be programmed by the owner of the arcade to alternate the force of the grippers; how much hold does this claw have? You can make it have a weak grip 19 times out of 20 for example. But if someone plays long enough, they can win a prize with the 20th take.

This is just an example. The owner of the arcade can adjust the ratio as desired. Another thing that can be programmed is the fall skill; how many times out of how many times the claw will weaken and drop the price once it gets it. This makes the player feel like they are getting closer and pushes them to play longer.

These machines can even be programmed according to the profit margin they want to keep. Everything can be perfectly legal as long as you finally have a chance to win a prize. But that turns the claw game into a slot machine, doesn’t it?

Want more examples?

Bill L. Howard wrote the book “Carnival Fraud 101”. He points out that not all games are rigged, and even when they use tricks to make winning that much harder, that still doesn’t mean it’s illegal on its own. But he offers some very good examples.

Seven walking games and how they can be stacked against you

The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. All opinions expressed are those of Jeff Deminski.

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