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Thai gambling opponents find new cause ‘ban the claw machine’

Anti-gambling activists have had a tremendous amount of success in the past few years in getting governments to clamp down on gambling operators. In the UK, the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals have been cut 98 percent; in Spain, operators can only advertise between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., but these were just the low-hanging fruits.

In Thailand, government officials are cracking down on a gambling device that they say leads children down the path of sin faster than just about anything you can imagine. No, they’re not talking about video game loot boxes, they’re talking about claw machines. Yes, claw machines.

For the uninitiated, claw machines are coin-operated boxes that are filled with prizes (usually stuffed animals) with a claw that can be lowered to grab them. Players have one chance to position the claw in the proper spot on each coin-operated turn.

In Thailand, Pawin Chamniprasart and his colleagues at the Interior Ministry see these innocent machines as the gateway to gambling addiction and have banned them outright, according to a report from the Bangkok Post.

The move to classify claw machines as gambling devices potentially opens a legal can of worms if operators invoke the classic “skill vs luck” argument. In this case, it wouldn’t be tough for operators to find plenty of people who have mastered claw machines and live in houses stuffed to the rafters with stuffed animals won in claw machine games. And YouTube is full of videos explaining how to beat the machines.

The fate of claw machines in Thailand will ultimately rest on how much effort claw machine operators want to put into their legal fight. But, for now anyways, claw machines are considered gambling devices in Thailand.