A Few Thoughts On Walt Disney World’s Prize Redemption Ban

arcadehero January 13, 2015 11
A Few Thoughts On Walt Disney World’s Prize Redemption Ban

(Thanks to Nick Lombardo of Arcade Hunters for the link)

This has been making the rounds in the arcade trade press for the past couple of days so it is probably worth a mention:

Disney ditching claw machines, video-game prizes – Orlando Sentinel

I was asked about what I think about this so after digging into the story, this sounds similar to what has happened in the past with states that suddenly ban something like pinball machines, coin pushers or whatever because some politicians see dollar signs and make a move without truly researching all of the potential economic effects that might have (or using common sense; or enjoying freedom). In the case of Disney here, it is a pre-emptive strike behavior. Redemption machines are not illegal in Florida but thanks to the politicians rushing to pass a bill while not getting into specifics with a law banning ‘internet cafés’, aka Florida’s Adult Arcades which operated in a strange psuedo-gambling way, Disney is afraid that the law could be re-interpreted to target prize redemption. Most venues have redemption as their bread-and-butter so this move will cause some ripple effects through Florida in the short-term.

Now I do not care much for redemption as you know if you have been a reader of this site for a long time. I’ve been called crazy a few times for not including redemption in my video arcade and in terms of talking about them on the site here, they don’t need my promotion anyways, with the games making money plenty on their own. The emotion that gets behind some people when they lose at redemption is usually what puts me off of it – when I worked a redemption desk I never had problems with the kids who were just happy to get whatever. It was the adults that often caused headaches over their incessant and immature whining, as though they were owed something by just showing up. That emotional irrationality sometimes crosses over to lawsuits when Mr. & Mrs. Derp don’t instantly win the iPad in the KeyMaster machine after they gave their kids $5 to put into it.

Despite those issues, redemption is a part of the arcade scene and most people do not cause a fuss over it since they have enough brain power to realize that this is for entertainment. As that article states, people have lost some good paying jobs over this, all because some politicians were either too cowardly or too stupid to realize that they left a lot of questions up in the air over this. As Nick Lombardo pointed out to me in our conversation about this, one bad after-effect this can have is the complete closure of all of the video arcades at Disney, depending upon what happens. To quote him directly (he has visited the arcade facilities at DisneyWorld many times):

It’s going to make a HUGE dent in a lot of the arcades. Most of Game Station is the prize counter and the giant rows of prize games. I’d love to see them add in more racers and traditional games but I think with Disney’s mentality they’ll just turn them into a coffee shop or something.

From personal experience in operating little to no redemption in my venue, I have found that people will play video games when that is all they have, then they realize that video games can be just as satisfying from an amusement perspective as the quick coin games and they typically last longer to boot. Hopefully Disney gives video only a decent chance to shine for a time as opposed to throwing in the towel.

It’s not the first not the last time something like this has happened with law, so its no big surprise. I know many pols don’t like to commit to specifics since those can cause icky problems when it comes time for them to ask for cash and votes but the effects of their ‘oversight’, if you want to call it that, are here to see. Fortunately for Disney, they didn’t have sheriffs with axes coming in and breaking the machines down to throw in a bon-fire. But I can imagine that is something they had in mind when they made the decision to pull everything like this; it was not a decision they would have made lightly.

It’s not over at this point and the law is changeable via the political processes that need to take place. The article mentions a politician promoting a law which will specifically exempt FECs like Disney so at least someone seems to understand that clarification is needed. In the meantime, until this gets resolved in can equate a shift that will mean more jobs lost, more fun denied all because something ‘had to be done’ about a problem that was questionable as to whether it was truly a menace and a detriment to society in the first place. Note that it wouldn’t just be the locations that are affected – this means manufacturers will sell less product which could lead to layoffs for their own staff. Florida has several manufacturer’s of redemption product including Bob’s Space Racers, Benchmark Games and Jennison Labs. I don’t see how putting people out of work across the spectrum of an established industry built around providing entertainment would be a beneficial thing for the economy in Florida. EDIT: As pointed out in the comments, among the companies that will be hit hardest by this are technicians. Tech work is often one of the most important but unsung parts of the industry, finding a tech can be a challenge at times but usually if there are arcades in an area, you can find a tech or techs. If the businesses fold up for what they fix, then that is going to have some harsh consequences as well.

The article quotes a lawyer where they equate prize redemption to gambling for kids, which is brought up every time the issue begins to tussel with the courts. I am not aware of any ruling coming against specific redemption product in recent times but it is a constant threat, with real economic consequences depending on how this all shakes out. This is why there are specific settings for cranes in California and New Jersey, which have to operate in a certain way to satisfy current state law.

As for a defense of redemption, if you have taken kids to a redemptioncade then you know that it usually is more a detriment to the gambling mentality once they learn that all that time and money spent on getting tickets only got them the lousy decoder ring and not the huge stuffed animal. In my own experience, my kids didn’t really care much about the prizes when we have visited CEC locations – they had more fun playing the games with their friends and collecting tickets themselves. They knew it was for fun, they didn’t need a lecture or a law to understand that.  The prizes are forgotten about not even a couple of hours after the visit but the memories of playing remain. Even then, there are so many options vying for their attention that they have never asked to go back and keep playing until they get whatever prize it was they saw behind the counter.  Working the redemption counter as a teenager, I don’t recall too many regulars or anyone we would notice was a total redemption addict. Personally when I was a kid, redemption/prizes never really entered into my brain, but I was obsessed with the video games and I ignored the redemption areas, aside from being annoyed that they were taking up space from awesome video games.

So we will have to see how things turn out for Florida, hopefully it is for the best. What are your thoughts about the issue?


  1. chaos January 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    There goes DisneyQuest 🙁

    • figment1988 January 13, 2015 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      They’ll probably get rid of the crane games at DQ. Besides, DQ made their redemption games ticket-free sometime in 2004.

    • Jdevy01 January 13, 2015 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      and Dave and Buster’s (in Florda)

    • Jeremy January 14, 2015 at 1:33 am - Reply

      Last I was at Disney Quest (a little over three years ago around IAAPA) they only had a few claw machines, and that was it for prize games – everything else was a mix of video-only equipment or ticket games with tickets disabled (ICEBall and such).

  2. Jdevy01 January 13, 2015 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Hopefully this won’t spread into other states.

  3. voltz January 13, 2015 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    This might be a good time to start making some REAL arcade titles again instead of trying to rely on little kiddie fun games to run a business.

  4. gblock January 14, 2015 at 12:05 am - Reply

    like Jdevy01 posted, there goes the majority of Dave & Busters business model in the state of Florida

  5. RayGunn January 14, 2015 at 7:41 am - Reply

    My name is Ray and I work for the company that repairs the games around Disney. To clear up a few misconceptions about the law and who it will effect long term-
    The law stipulates that “a game of chance has to operate on a set coin per play ( no card readers ) and its prizes cannot exceed 75 cents.
    Now, the people it will affect- in the short term- the guests. They will be compensated for any points they have left as of February 1st ( the day Disney will comply to the law an all redemption machines and card readers will be removed ) and for the most part, they will complain. But give it time, they will move on. Disney itself will loose a large chunk of change, but they’re Disney- they will make it up somewhere. And Disneyquest isn’t going anywhere. Cast members will be redeployed to new locations. Manufacturers like Bob’ s and others Will be fine- they have lots of other accounts all over the country ( and the world for that matter )
    No, the long term effects of this are going to hit the game techs. We are an outside company who has worked very hard to keep the games running for a very long time, and most of us will be out of a job in a few weeks. I have been in this industry for 35 years in September, and it is just another nail in the coffin for a job I hold very dear to my heart. I haven’t just seen the history of the arcade, I helped build it and kept it running.
    It makes me sad that a few rotten people getting cought doing something so polar opposite to what I do, is essentially destroying the arcade in Florida.
    And that’s all I have to say.
    Keep Playin’ like it’s 1981

    • voltz January 14, 2015 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      If you want to make up that missing chunk, then here’s my advice. Aside from the newer games, try to restock on the popular titles that brought in a profit from the late 90’s-00’s. Problem is you guys always tend to focus on what’s current way too much when everyone is wondering where their favorites disappeared to. (probably some collector’s basement)

      Fill that gap. Restore interest in neglected genres and keep the place loaded with all the variety you can manage. You need to make it a point for people when they see your place, it’ll be as if they go to an arcade for a reason. TO PLAY REAL GAMES!!

      Best of luck to ya!

    • arcadehero January 15, 2015 at 12:27 am - Reply

      Thanks for your feedback Ray, I added the plight of techs/ops to the mix as well. I hope that things will work out and that you will be able to adapt and survive in the short-term and continue to thrive for the long term.

  6. TronPinball February 1, 2015 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Ray I miss ya already! This whole law is nonsense and if it ever does get fixed, it’s game over here at Disney. Over the years working the counter at one of the arcades I’ve seen many families have fun here. A lot of the guests enjoyed the adventure more than the result of playing ticket games. Sure we’ve had guests save tickets up for higher prizes (especially the Disney prizes we used to have) but it was all about the fun of it. I never grew up going to arcades so at first I didn’t understand the whole interest in arcades. Then I went to my first IAAPA event and my eyes opened up and I saw the big picture. Sure I played some of the redemption games and they frustrated the heck out of me but the challenge of nailing that jackpot (and impressing guests) was the big thrill. I didn’t care about the tickets. I gravitated to video games and pinballs. I’ve spoken to a lot of disappointed guests about this mess and they can’t believe it. Well it was a good run for the 15 years I’ve been in the arcade. I’m sad to see the loss of our techs (they rock!) and our games…

    The arcades will still be here. It will be interesting to see what video games will be brought in. Not a big selection out there to begin with, and it’s even smaller for what Disney will allow into them.

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