The Thailand Ministry of Interior has made a significant decision, prohibiting popular claw cranes from all retail malls in the country. In accordance with the revised regulations, these machines are now classified as casino games and must be removed immediately. The decision was made on February 19, 2020, and provincial governors have been tasked with promptly removing all traces of the machines.
The machines function in an uncomplicated manner, allowing players to use a claw to retrieve stuffed animals and other rewards. However, the claw is incredibly unreliable, with some arguing that it was purposely designed to be ineffective. The system has been deemed controversial for years, but it wasn’t until recently that it was officially classified as a casino game.
However, this machine is not the only one of its kind to be prohibited. A second arcade-banned game machine employs a similar system in which players insert coins for the opportunity to win additional tokens or prizes. According to the Interior Ministry, the reward for the investment is primarily unknown, making it an official form of gambling.
A Clear Difference
This ‘unknown’ factor has ultimately prompted the government to take action. According to a Ministry spokesperson, it is merely a case of paying money for nothing in return. The spokesman elaborated that all other consoles in arcades provide a straightforward service: money is paid in advance, and a game or item is played or purchased. However, with systems that may or may not return a service or valuable item, it is evidently a game of chance. Alternatively, a casino game.
Nonetheless, it was made plain that only these mechanisms will be removed from arcades. The crackdown will not affect any other machines that provide a clear service for a charge, as they do not constitute a game of chance.
Given that the claw crane and other similar mechanisms have been in operation for decades, some query why it has taken so long for regulations to be modified. In any case, the ban has been made official, and immediate action is required.
Now that the law is official, the Interior Ministry has announced that there will shortly be inspections. Targeting claw cranes, law enforcement has been authorized to conduct sweeps of local retail malls. If any are discovered in use, the operator will be issued a warning. However, if repeated violations occur, the violating operator risks arrest and/or hefty penalties.
It was also explained that the prohibition was the result of intense pressure from the anti-gambling group No Gambling Youth Club. The group’s leader, Nutthapong Sampaokaew, explained that the machines do nothing but encourage juvenile gambling. Sampaokaew elaborated that the glorified casino activities are completely unrestricted, which means that children of all ages are permitted to participate at all times without supervision.
More than 1,300 claw cranes were operating in Bangkok’s 92 retail malls, according to a survey. Nonetheless, the massive quantity is already diminishing as the prohibition takes effect.
Intriguingly, Thai legislators have been staunch opponents of gambling, with regulations in place since 1935 permitting only horse racing wagering and state-run lotteries. Despite the stringent laws, it is estimated that approximately 57% of residents engage in some form of legal or illegal gambling.