We all remember those glass cases full of stuffed animals and other toys to grab with a hovering claw crane. Throw in your quarter, grab for something, hope for the best. And this unknown reward aspect has led Thailand to ban claw crane games for being gambling tools.

No Payout Guarantee

In an ordinary arcade game, a player drops in a token or coin and plays the game for as long as they can survive. Since the length of playtime depends entirely on skill, these games are not considered games of chance – or gambling.

However, when you drop your token into a claw crane machine and try to maneuver that clumsy, grasping claw over a prize – anything can happen. You might get the prize which caught your eye, or the smaller, less desirable prize next to it. Or you might get a claw full of bupkis. And there’s the rub.

According to Thailand’s Interior Ministry, paying for a game with no guarantee of a reward is playing a game of chance, aka gambling. So provincial governors across Thailand were informed that the claw crane machines must go due to their ban as gambling tools. The ban was ordered on February 19.

Clampdown on the Claw

While the gambling sector seems to be growing globally as gambling laws are relaxed, the opposite is taking place in certain countries. The UK has been cracking down on betting machines by imposing limits on them, and most recently, Thailand’s clampdown on claw crane machines is underway. Part of the government’s concern in the UK and Thailand is access to unsupervised machines by children.

Currently there are 1,300 claw crane machines operating in 75 malls across Thailand. And once the ban goes into effect, the mighty claw will grasp no more. Currently, only the government-run lottery and horse race betting are allowed in Thailand, according to the nation’s Gambling Act 1935. Still, a survey by the Thai Center for Gambling Studies indicates that 57% of Thailand’s citizens engage in gambling, legal or not.


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Thomas McCoy was born in Bethesda, Maryland and studied finance at the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington D.C. before heading to New York and a job as a forex trader on Wall Street. Successful enough to launch his own, online forex trading platform, Thomas has long had a keen interest in the places where the worlds of finance and technology meet. As a prolific blogger, Thomas considers himself an expert on cryptocurrencies, casino asset restructuring, and emerging technologies set to change the way people do business.