Thailand BANS children's claw grabber games over gambling fears

Authorities in Thailand have banned children’s claw grabber games after ruling they are a form of gambling.

Military chiefs had previously ordered a crackdown on the iconic machines after complaints from parents annoyed that their kids were wasting money on them.

Last week in Chiang Mai and Udon Thani in the north of the country dozens of claw grabber games were removed from shopping malls and other venues.

While in Bangkok many operators sealed off the machines after police declared that all licenses would be inspected.

Earlier this month, the Udon Thani Provincial Court ruled that claw grabber games were a form of gambling - breaking the country’s strict anti-betting laws.

On June 25, an official in the interiror ministry, Sakchai Taenghor, said a new nationwide ban on claw grabber machines, known locally as doll picking machines, would be rolled out.

Anyone operating the machines faces a fine of 2,000 baht (50GBP).

Taenghor said that the machines have been deemed to be Type B gambling class 2 devices under Thai law as a player could either win or lose with or without counting points.

He said: ‘’Today, the Ministry of Interior has prohibited and not agreed to issue a license for legally installing the claw machines in various shopping malls, both in Bangkok and all provinces around Thailand in order to protect children not to be addicted to vices, which could lead to further social problems.’’

The minister stated a previous Supreme Court verdict from 2004 that found that even when a player is playing the game alone, there is a ‘’win or loss between the player and the machine’’.

Sakchai said that no new licenses would be issued for the toy machines. Officials would also check the existing database of where the machines are being operated and begin checking them or removing them.

The ministry also warned Thai parents to tell their children that the machines are bad and should be avoided.

Bangkok deputy governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul said that officers were now checking all machines located in the capital. He said that even those with the proper paperwork would be ‘’proceeded with according to the law’’.

The popular arcade attractions were being used in thousands of shopping malls and fairgrounds around the South East Asian country - where betting and casinos are illegal. The only form of gambling allowed is at horse tracks and playing the state organised lottery.

But a police investigation began in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand on May 6 when parents said their children were pestering them for coins to feed the claw machines.

Residents complained to officials that the games are ''nothing but gambling'' and the machines are unfair and the prizes are mostly cheaply made teddies and dolls - worth less than the value of playing.

They said that the machines - which cost around 10 baht (25 pence) to play - were a form of gambling that were making their children addicted.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Pichet Chirananantisen of Chiang Mai Provincial Police said at the time that he had ordered all areas within the province to be inspected and anyone operating the games without a license to be prosecuted.

He said he had ordered the removal and large numbers of machines in the past week, while several of the owners of the games have been arrested.

Footage taken earlier this month at the Phra Ram 9 shopping centre in central Bangkok shows dozens of games with their lights turned off and signs explaining that they have been ''closed for maintenance.''