Are Childhood Arcade Games Leading to Problem Gambling?

If you’ve ever been to an arcade as a child, your head is probably filled with fond memories. Slipping a few quarters into a game and trying to win as many prizes and rewards as possible is one of the more fun and exhilarating experiences for all children. But as technology advances and games grow in complexity and size, many wonder if these seemingly innocent childhood games might create habits that lead to problem gambling. We’ll examine the industry and what parents should know when heading to the arcade with their children.

Have Arcades Always Been a Form of Gambling?

Depending on who you ask, arcades and gambling can be seen has having many similarities. After all, in a larger view, you’re trading in a certain sum (usually money) to win a more significant or valuable reward. But many state gambling laws don’t claim arcades to be gambling for a few reasons. In most cases, arcade games are games of skill, meaning you have some control over the outcome. Additionally, these games usually don’t pay out money as a reward for winning.

Yet many still ask about games that offer tokens, points, or other rewards that they can later redeem for prizes. Do the different levels of rewards equate to the same sort of desire that gamblers have? Many carnival games and arcades have faced legal troubles due to these concerns, especially when these games are rigged to be extremely difficult to win and produce prizes that aren’t worthwhile. Research shows that problem gambling can develop due to poor habits as a child, and with chance and arcade games becoming much more prevalent, many are wondering if things are trending closer to gambling than parents or children would like. 

Move Away Quarters; Cards Are En Vogue

Arcade games used to be a simple transaction; you insert a token or quarter, and you get to play a game for a specific time limit. But things have evolved, meaning fewer quarters and more “cards.” These cards — similar to the ones handed out by casinos — make children feel like they’re part of a special club. As your points increase, you can use these cards to make transactions at the end of game sessions. 

This is just one example of how blurred the lines are becoming between childhood arcades and chance games and the ones adults play. While it can be seen as malpractice in some cases, for most experts, it seems to simply be a coincidence. Either way, these childhood chance games are starting to resemble gambling in a way many people should pay close attention to.

How “Flow” Is Incorporated into Arcade Games

Have you ever played a video game and expected to be on for a few minutes, only to look up and notice that a few hours have gone by? This concept is called “flow.” Many companies are looking for better ways to incorporate this into games for adults and children. For example, in casino games like slots, you insert money and continue until the time comes to insert more. The games become so simple and routine that you play for hours before taking a second to realize where you are. 

Physical arcades and chance games have a similar outcomes. Even these skilled-based games reward individuals for being good and urge them to continue playing for better results and opportunities within the game. Many experts are noticing that the lines between arcade games and online video games or casinos are slowly thinning. This leads to issues where children spend money on games deemed legal but promote similar gambling behaviors that are considered unlawful. 

The Claw Game: The Perfect Example

One of the games most children find appealing is the “claw” game, where you place a token or quarter in a machine and maneuver a claw to grab a toy. If you miss the toy, you try again with another coin. If you grab the toy, you must drag it to a drop area, but it can still fall off the claw before getting to the drop location. It’s one of the more famous arcade games and is located in almost every site with a set of games. But is it a form of gambling?

Many people claim that the claw game is a game of chance. Rarely are there winners, as most times the toys will fall, and you’ll be forced to try again. So you have to get lucky and hope the claw doesn’t release your toy before it can get to the drop area. But others argue that the claw game has some level of skill, as you have to align the claw to grab the animal at the right angle. This divisive game is the perfect example of how blurred the lines are between gambling and a simple arcade game. It’s important that we differentiate these areas to better understand how these games impact children’s behavior in the past, present, and future.

How to Ensure That Childhood Arcade Games Don’t Turn into Problem Gambling

Businesses are becoming increasingly wise every year, adapting to our tendencies and learning new ways to create appealing products for us all. That expertise has extended into childhood games, and while it can lead to a more fun and rewarding experience, it can also create an environment that breeds problem gambling. Fortunately, you can stay aware of problem gambling with 800-GAMBLER. Stayed educated on gambling and its impacts with gambling treatment information and resources and help keep your child from developing bad habits. Call 1-800-GAMBLER today, or check out our past events and webinars for key gambling insight you can’t get anywhere else.


Translate »