Two Businesses With Arcade Machines Busted For Gambling In California

arcadehero August 3, 2017 4
Two Businesses With Arcade Machines Busted For Gambling In California

One challenge of operating an honest business is when dishonest ones come around, break the law and reinforce negative stereotypes about a certain industry. You might recall the arcade scene from Robocop 2…too often the perception that all arcades are like that lingers around the imaginations of city halls around the world. Unfortunately today’s news out of California is a potential case in this regard, with local opinion on arcades taking a nosedive thanks to two operations in Fullerton.

I should mention that at the moment the investigation is still developing and everyone accused is innocent until proven guilty.

The story comes along from CBS Los Angeles, where police pulled off a sting of the “Video Game Lounge” and later what police called “another illegal gambling operation” a short distance away while the reporting shows an image of window paint showing “Ocean King Games”. The footage shows multiplayer fishing redemption games being hauled out of the first business along with some sit down cabinets.

I have seen Ocean King Games setup at amusement trade shows before, both Amusement Expo and IAAPA. They only display those top down fishing games that work for 5-10 players. Their website can be found here where you’ll notice similar machines being pulled out of the businesses. While such games are generally sold as ticket redemption games, I did notice at trade shows that they had coin payout cups in them (deactivated for the show) as that is how they were setup for sale in various Eastern regions like China.

While there are no details about the machines themselves from the CBS Story, it is certainly possible that the machines were setup for coin payout which is illegal in California. Many states have a labyrinth of laws in this regard, with California having plenty to pour over of what is and isn’t legal. This is why on many machines like cranes/claw products they have to have “California legal” settings to avoid causing such entanglements.

Any thoughts from the readers out there?


  1. Chaf August 3, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    As sad and disgusting this story can be, there’s one adjective you can never put in this specific case: surprising.

    South-East Asia has a gigantic gambling culture. And this culture is super super close to the whole arcade and coin-op culture. Take the Pachinko rooms in Japan. Take all those Poker machines. Take your classic one-armed bandit.

    Yes, this is harmful for the industry, but look at what the industry became, when they decide to fully focus on dedicated cabinets for arcade games. When I go in the rarest arcade opened in my city and I see a totally legal Candy Crush machine that gives real candies the more score you make, even if it’s candy, it kinda looks like gambling.

    I’m sorry, but it’s kinda weird to say how disgusted you can be about gambling, while promoting fairground-like products. In real fairgrounds, arcade cabinets are in the same box as coin gambling machines that makes you earn more coins to exchange it with a prize, like a console, a phone or a mini-pop-corn machine.

    I love arcade games, but mostly arcade games on generic cabinets. The one that you can swap, so that the same cabinet can play several different games of different genres with the same hardware. Which is something the Western Amusement industry never really did. (Or American, I’d say. I’m European and I can’t tell you a single European arcade manufacturer that is still alive.)

    To be fair, I’m kinda mixed there. Gambling is bad and honest arcade tenders shouldn’t be mixed with dishonest ones. But even super honest ones will still make his room a mini amusement park with prizes to win in super honest cabinets. With an everlasting coin-op business model and lots of those honest guys never touch or maintain their cabinets.

    Am I too much of a dick or can I truly say “you reap what you sow”?

    • arcadehero August 4, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

      As far as the story goes I am not sure if you are referring to me or just a general sense of anti-gambling arguments but the post is not about surprise, disgust or whether or not gambling should be legal. The issue is that if you operate machines outside of the confines of the law (California is well known for having a love affair with laws over everything…it gets a bit draconian at times) that creates a negative connotation about arcades that do operate legally.

      In my area, PC LAN centers were very popular around 2000-2013ish. I live in Utah which has some of the strictest gambling laws in the United States. But many of these PC centers were fronts for gambling operations (placing bets, gaming for cash). They all got caught if that is what they were trying to do but it quickly created a negative perception about LAN centers that were doing things legitimately. Not all negative publicity is good for business, especially if people in general then associate all businesses with something seedy and illegal. That makes it difficult to operate or open a new business; there was a story we covered a while back of the Super Arcade that was trying to open up in California. They had to battle the city because council members and some residents felt that an arcade would attract violence, drugs, theft, etc. to the area. As mentioned in the gambling story, residents all felt or had witnessed problems that such an establishment that was allegedly flaunting the law was bringing with it.

      Yes redemption stuff is close to it but unless those are declared to be illegal, then there is not an issue with them. Sometimes that does happen – look at stories of states outlawing coin pushers or the state of Florida raising an issue over redemption, which caused many places to go 100% amusement only. Pinball used to be illegal in many areas but that changed but in part because the machines stopped offering cash payouts. At the end of the day, it’s about what laws local jurisdictions wish to make as well as enforce.

  2. SaraAB87 August 4, 2017 at 8:42 am - Reply

    I wonder if this type of business has illegal slot machines in it in the back somewhere in a secret place that you can’t see unless they let you in. I have never seen those games in the footage in any arcade around here, perhaps even having a game with the option to pay out coin is illegal in CA. They could also be switching the payouts from coin to tickets or e-tickets or something similar on the fly when the feds show up and running an underground operation in the meantime. These don’t look like normal arcade games that you see in everyday arcades like Dave & Busters and Chuck E Cheese.

    I have heard of stories like this from other countries, albeit in the past, in France I heard there were arcades where they would have two different types of games in the cabinets (again this is in the past), they would have a regular game and they would have a gambling game in the same cabinet, from what I understand the cabinet looked like a normal arcade cabinet, when the authorities would come in, they would flip a switch on the cabinet to switch it from the gambling game to the normal game, this resulted in many arcade cabinets and legitimate game parts being destroyed.

  3. David Lim August 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    I live in Fullerton where this happened and there’s another location that has coin payouts in their games. The problem is more of the people who are frequenting these locations as we have a pretty bad homeless epidemic here in Fullerton and they flock to these establishments and cause some problems.

    I haven’t been to these places as I’d rather go to legit arcades. We have very few legit arcades and a buddy of mine runs a gamestore/arcade and I’m sure the city will pay a visit to his establishment because they’ll think all arcades are seedy game halls like the ones they busted.

    These gambling halls are making legit arcades look bad, especially in a city that previously had anti-arcade laws in its books since the 80s.

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