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  • Anyone who has played a claw machine can relate to the experience of having the claw perfectly positioned only to see it weakly graze the prize before pulling back up.

  • No Man!

  • It may seem like the machine isn't even trying.

  • - And well... - It is not your imagination, those claw machines are rigged!

  • There are a couple of beloved stuffed animals that I have that are from a claw machine, a koala and a bear.

  • That is writer, Phil Edwards.

  • I looked at the instruction guides for a few of the biggest claw games out there.

  • Take for example, the manual for Black Tie Toys advanced crane machine.

  • If you look at page 8, section subheading "Claw Strength", you would see a horrifying piece of information.

  • "Managing profit is made easy."

  • Simply input the coin value, the average value of the merchandise, and the profit level.

  • The machine will automatically calculate when to send full strength to the claw.

  • Alright, so if it cost 50 cents to play the game, and the prize inside cost 7 dollars.

  • To make a profit of 50%, full power will be sent to the claw only about once every 21 games or so.

  • That sucks. They also randomize that winning game within a range so that players can't predict when exactly it will happen.

  • And you might notice a subheading that says "dropping skill".

  • They can program the machine to make you think you almost won.

  • They taunt you with it. You see the stuffed animal flying in the air, and then it drops it. And that just ruins everything.

  • So, most of the time claw machines are actually more like slot machines, than like skeeball or whac-a-mole.

  • - Who's in charge here! -The claw!

  • The question of whether claw machines are a game of skill or chance goes back decades.

  • The earlier versions back in the 1930s had very little element of skill and were marketed as being highly profitable for their owners.

  • This was the depression era and people were desperate for ways to get money moving.

  • During a crackdown on organized crime in the 1950s federal law classified claw machines as gambling devices and prohibited the transportation of them across state lines.

  • After those laws were relaxed in the 1970s, newer claw machines from Europe and Asia spread throughout the United States.

  • They actually started calling them "skill cranes" because the joystick gave players more precise control.

  • But owners had increasing control over profits as well.

  • And they've been met with a patchwork of state and local laws and regulations.

  • If machine operators want to make that claw really really unfair against the players, there's not a lot stopping them.

  • Most of the regulations focus on the prize size, not the strength of the claw.

  • That's a reason that you might see fewer of the "win a free iPad" claw machines or "free iPhone" claw machines around.

  • And more of just old fashioned stuffed animals.

  • It's great if players know what they are up against.

  • Especially since sites like Youtube have enabled claw machine enthusiast to broadcast their victories. Like this guy.

  • I'm Matt Magnone. Join me as I venture out and win as much crap as I can from claw machines!

  • My best outcome of this is not that all the claw machines go away.

  • Since I first wrote this article, I've spent a dollar I think on claw machines... and I've lost.

  • All I want for people to know is that they are not the problem. The claw machine is the problem.

  • Ah, you piece of crap!

Anyone who has played a claw machine can relate to the experience of having the claw perfectly positioned only to see it weakly graze the prize before pulling back up.

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