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The Great Chuck E. Cheese Lawsuit of 2011: Can You Really Get Addicted to "The Claw"?

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A California real estate agent named Debbie Keller is suing the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain -- known primarily for sudden eruptions of outright violence -- for exposing her children to "gambling-style devices."

Keller is seeking $5 million, but her attorney claims the lawsuit is actually an attempt to protect the public at large.

“We don’t think that children should be exposed to casino-style gambling devices at an arcade,” lawyer Eric Benink said.

A wee lass sliding into the stinking abyss of hardcore addiction...

According to David Moye at Aol News, "Chuck E. Cheese attorneys are moving for a dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds that the games are legal and the California Legislature never intended to make operating a children’s arcade game a criminal act. Moreover, they contend that even if the games were illegal, then Keller would be an admitted participant in illegal gambling and therefore barred from seeking damages and restitution."

Moye spoke with gambling addiction expert Bob Cabiness, who doesn't believe Keller has a legal leg to stand on -- but doesn't dispute that certain arcade games can be highly addictive.

"I met one woman in Gambler's Anonymous who was addicted to 'The Claw' and spent all her money on it," he said. "She'd win a teddy bear and just throw it away."

Dispenser of plush animals, destroyer of lives...

What do the real-life horrors of Claw addiction look like? What human misery hath The Claw wrought?

Yelp user "Ethan R." of San Diego -- the very city from which protector-of-the-American-people Debbie Keller hails -- has this to say about the Claw machines at the MVP Happy Castle Club in Arcadia, CA:

This is a terrible place to go if you have a gambling problem. I'm going to start off by saying the claws are rigged. Enough games get played, it gets a tighter grip until you win and it resets.

I like how the place doesn't use any other dirty tricks besides that. The glass and mirrors are straight down so it doesn't screw with your perspective, and it's pretty fair in giving you enough time to get the claw into position.

There is one big con though. The prizes are way too cute. They will steal money from your wallet before you've realized what has happened. The police will just laugh at you afterwards too.

"The police will just laugh at you afterwards."

A problem gambler, his life ripped apart at the seams by The Claw.

Let's see what Yelper "May W." of Los Angeles has to say about The Claw:

Sure, some of the machines are totally rigged, but part of the fun is the pursuit of the nearly impossible, right? What I like about this claw machine heaven is that the quarters are prepackaged so when you ask for change, you can get them in a neat little plastic bag instead of as loose coins.  Little things like that matter, especially if you are in the ZONE trying to win that PS3, $1,500 LV handbag, or the gigantic Hello Kitty doll!

"Some of the machines are totally rigged, but part of the fun is the pursuit of the nearly impossible, right?"

May, will you be asking that same question when you're drinking Mad Dog 20/20 straight out of the bottle (as if anyone actually pours their Mad Dog into a glass...) while sitting in a pool of your own vomit on a street corner somewhere in East LA, having lost your last earthly dime to The Claw??

A glance at the website of Claw distributor explains precisely how they plan to hook a nation of young, impressionable Chuck E. Cheese-goers on their sinister, ruinous "game":

The setting of the win ratio is done differently on different manufacturers of games, but most accomplish this by controlling the strength of the grabber. Consult your owners manual on this procedure. Just remember that you want to control winnings by this method and not by stuffing and compacting the plush into the bottom of the game. Keep them fluffed up, loose and as playable as possible and remember your game is a store front or vendor and must be attractive. Keep your plush mixes facing toward the front with those next to the sides facing toward the sides if you have side glasses visible. Try to keep the eyes of the animals facing towards the customer and arranged in a orderly fashion. Distribute colors all around the game. Avoid placing same color toys together.

"Try to keep the eyes of the animals facing towards the customer and arranged in a orderly fashion."

"Distribute colors all around the game."

"Avoid placing same color toys together."


Thankfully, Associated Content contributor Wilbert Wiggins has some advice for those unable to back away from the reach of The Claw:


It will probably take you anywhere from three to five attempts before you are able to grasp a prize. Be prepared to have enough money to play the game at least three times.

Go For The Easy Prizes

Go for the smaller items. They are easier to get. I see so many people of making the mistake of going for the larger items. The larger items are harder to get due to the width of the claw itself. You may be able to grasp a larger item, but it will be very difficult in reeling it in.


The claw game requires a degree of concentration. You must pay attention to what you are trying to accomplish. Talking to those around you will diminish your chances of winning a prize.

Formulate Your Coordinates

Look at the prize that you would like to win before you play. Don't make the mistake of being indecisive while you are playing the game. You should know where you would like to send the claw before you put your money into the coin slot.

Focus On The Gut

Always focus on the gut of stuffed animals. This will help you center the claw and increase your chances of picking it up successfully.

Know When To Quit

As I stated earlier, you should be prepared to play the game several times if you expect to win anything. Some people get lucky on their first try. The majority will have to play several times before they have any success. The claw game is fun and addictive, but you must know when to walk away. It is time to walk away if you are unsuccessful after five attempts. This is the point where frustration will set in and ruin your composure and concentration.

Focus on the gut, concentrate, and formulate your coordinates. Debbie Keller, don't fight this feeling. Your children, ages 3 and 5, have years to perfect their coordinate formulation. Just teach them how to focus on the gut -- incidentally, one of the most common mistakes novice Claw players make -- and everything will be fine.

Just keep them away from the MVP Happy Castle Club -- that place sounds dangerous.
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