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Interior ministry bans “crane claw” game machines as gambling tools



PHOTO: - File photo

Gambling, other than betting on horse races or the government-sponsored lottery, has been prohibited in Thailand since the Gambling Act 1935. Now the government has banned the familiar “claw crane” machines found at many shopping malls and supermarkets, calling them “gambling tools.”  The order was signed by the acting permanent secretary of the interior on Wednesday. The order was issued to all provincial governors and is to be enforced nationwide.

The order specifies two types of game machines: claw crane machines, where customers use a claw to pick from among a pile of toys and dolls inside a display case, and dispenser and game machines, in which customers use a token to buy items inside a case or play games on a screen.

With the claw crane machines, customers insert a token, worth 10 baht each time, into the machine with no guarantee they will receive anything in return. This has been deemed a game of chance.

In the dispenser and game machines, the ministry determined that players always get something in return, whether it’s an item or just the enjoyment of playing the game, and that these machines don’t constitute gambling.

Officials will begin inspecting shopping malls, and operators of unlicensed machines will be given a warning or face arrest.

In January, youth activists urged the government to enact a ban on claw crane machines. A coordinator of the No Gambling Youth Club said the machines are found in many shopping locations throughout the country and young people have unrestricted access to them.

He said the Gambling Act categorises these machines as serving a betting purpose, a definition confirmed by Thailand’s Supreme Court. But the machines operate freely in malls, department stores and supermarkets, and attract many youngsters.

He cited a survey conducted by the No Gambling Youth Club in 92 shopping malls in 10 provinces, including Bangkok, which found more than 1,300 machines in place at 75 malls.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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