iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s summertime and that means family fun in the sun. And for many, boardwalk games are a big part of that. However, a lot of players find themselves frustrated — sometimes going home empty-handed, which makes them wonder if the games might be rigged.
In New Jersey, every game is inspected at least once a year.
New Jersey’s acting attorney general, John Hoffman, says these inspections are important because the games are meant to be fair.
“People have a chance to win, and an opportunity to win and it’s a game like anything else,” Hoffman said. “Of course everybody can’t win every time. But we also don’t want to be in a situation when people unfairly lose.”
Good Morning America Investigates tagged along Tuesday as New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs conducted surprise inspections.
“People assume that games like this are rigged,” said Steve Lee, acting director of New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “They think that they have no chance. But actually New Jersey does a good job of making sure that these games are fair. It’s important for us to keep coming out here.”
The division’s Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission oversees the operations of approximately 1,000 Amusement Games operated at recognized amusement parks, seashore or other resorts or agricultural exhibitions such as county fairs.
One inspection was conducted on a game where the objective is to throw darts at balloons, to pop them and win a prize.
Inspectors advise that all players check the balloons to see if they are properly inflated so there is enough pressure in the balloon to be punctured by a dart. They also suggest players inspect the darts themselves.
“Make sure that the tip is pointed and sharp,” inspector Paul Johnson said. “[make sure] the fins are in good condition so when you throw the dart, it has a nice balanced flight and can hit the target.”
Though the inspector found a couple of balloons weren’t inflated to regulation, overall the game checked out.
“I’ve proven that the game works. It’s a fair game. It is operated fairly. The consumer can feel safe about playing this game without being cheated,” inspector Johnson said.
Next, inspectors moved on to a basketball game.
“I want to see if a basketball would fit through that rim,” inspector Bill Waters said while checking the hoop’s circumference.
Inspectors checked for several other things including proper state licensing, whether the basketball hoops were leveled evenly and had the proper air pressure. If the basketballs are overinflated, they become too hard and may bounce off the hoop.
Ultimately, the inspector gave the basketball game the seal of the approval.
Finally, inspectors checked claw games. On YouTube, video after video shows people winning and losing at these games. Many consider this game to be the frustrating of all since it can drop that coveted prize, even after the player has grabbed it.
Along the Seaside Heights boardwalk, one arcade’s claw game passed inspection.
“This one we consider satisfactory,” inspector Johnson said. “Even though it hasn’t dropped in here yet, it picks it up and then it’s headed over there. If it can pick it up and survive when it stops, and starts going in the right direction, we usually say that’s fine.”
At another arcade, inspector Christine Donahue checked the tension on one claw game, finding that it was fine. But the claw right next to it, not so much. Donahue told ABC News the claw’s grip was too weak to hold the prize.
Donahue ordered the game to be shut down until the claw could be adjusted.
“So what we’re going to do, is we are going to have this machine shut down for now, until they either put lighter plush in here, or they increase the tension, because the attendant doesn’t know exactly how to do that at this moment,” Donahue explained. “We are going to come back, but right now he is going to tape it up.”
The arcade employee told ABC News when prizes are changed, employees may sometimes forget to adjust the tension of the claw.
The arcade company, Casino Pier, told ABC News: “Casino Pier stands by the fact that we operate all our legalized games of chance within the regulations and do not alter any of our games. Our commitment is to customer service and would never look to deceive our valued guests. We were surprised of this violation and are immediately correcting the issue caused by the crane in question.”
Casino Pier told GMA on Wednesday that it has since fixed the game and officials are expected to re-inspect the game Thursday to determine whether it can operate again.
Hoffman says his office takes violations of gaming regulations very seriously. Punishments vary but violators can be given a warning, ordered to recalibrate their machines, or sometimes even fined $250-$500, depending on the severity of the offense and whether they are a previous offender.
Hoffman also noted that their goal is to ensure consumers are treated fairly.
“We want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and confident when they come to enjoy the boardwalk,” Hoffman said. “This is part of our soul.”
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Read More →