Chuck E. Cheese's caught in gambling controversy

A crackdown on Internet slot machine parlors has their owners pointing fingers at the token-wagering arcade and pizza chain.

By Jason Notte May 15, 2013 2:26PM
File photo of a Chuck E Cheese's restaurant (© Helen Sessions/Alamy)Staring into the face of Chuck E. Cheese's (CEC) is an exercise in perspective.


Parents see a few hours of blistering screams, bad pizza and worse music played by animatronic rodents, followed by a night of quiet, restful slumber. Supporters of illegal Internet gambling parlors see a whiskered double standard and a cartoon pit boss slinging tokens and stuffed animals.


Time magazine notes that the mouse and his arcade-and-pizza playhouses have been sucked into the gambling debate in recent years by people opposed to crackdowns on strip mall storefronts filled with simulated slot machine games that run on swipe cards, give out cash prizes and have become a boon for elderly patrons. In the words of one 70-year-old woman from Ohio interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: "It has become my world."


Just how closely that world resembles Chuck E. Cheese's depends on one's opinion of recent efforts to regulate or shutter video gambling parlors in Ohio, South Carolina, Michigan, Massachusetts and Florida. While parlor owners in Massachusetts and elsewhere say the cash prizes are only paying for the "computer time" of a few free rounds, a new law in Florida outlawing video gambling machines has created somewhat of a conundrum for Mr. Cheese and his playroom pals.


The wording of Florida's law, enacted last month, says for arcade machines to be legal, they must be coin-operated (no dollar bills or swipe cards), they must involve some skill (not just be games of pure chance), and they cannot award cash or gift cards as prizes. The only prizes allowed are merchandise with a maximum value of 75 cents.


That's far less than the roughly $20 value of prizes for Chuck E. Cheese's boardwalk-style games. It also puts restaurant chains with games, like Dave and Buster's, in a bit of a spot because their arcade prizes hold similar value and their machines take only swipe cards.


Owners of gambling cafes, seeing the wide loophole and turning a blind eye to the inherent differences between stuffed pandas and wads of cash, claim discrimination and tell The Miami Herald that the new law is "is something you expect in a country like Cuba, not the United States."


The Florida Arcade Association told The Naples News that targeting adult arcades is an "abuse of police power." A lawsuit was filed in April claiming that the new law is unconstitutional, with plaintiffs saying the legislation is "arbitrary" and "irrational."


Chuck E. Cheese's has been caught up in gambling arguments before, including a $5 million lawsuit filed in 2001 by a mom in San Diego who alleged the chain was a gateway to gambling addiction. But Florida officials seem loath to put the mouse on trial. Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, whose city removed 72 machines from gambling cafes and arcades the day the Florida law went into effect, offered The Miami Herald this bit of perspective when asked about Chuck E. Cheese's:


"I'm not going to go arrest Chuck E. Cheese in front of a bunch of 6-year-olds. If the governor and the Legislature want that, they can come and do it themselves."

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57Comments
May 15, 2013 3:50PM
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Stupid topic.

 

I grew up playing at Chuck E. Cheese.

I take my son there regularly.

He has fun, plays like crazy, and then falls asleep when we get home.

I'm not addicted to gambling and he probably won't be either.

 

People need to stop blaming things, that other people like, for their own problems in life.

May 15, 2013 3:16PM
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Perhaps the shut down of video gaming parlors has something to do with the states not wanting competition with the lottery.

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A psycho bitch in San Diego was looking for a free ride, what a stupid lawsuit.  And just think, there was some bood-sucking, worthless lawyer who took the case.

May 15, 2013 4:04PM
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Really.......? It's Chuck E Cheese not the Golden Nugget... Huge difference between winning and losing cash and playing a game in which you either lose or win a stuffed toy....
May 15, 2013 3:54PM
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I go to these places. First, the ones we go to are for prises, not cash. Second, The senors go in there and bet 8 cents a spin. With the wins by the end of the night they win $25 or they lose $25. The place feeds them dinner and snacks. Plus drinks are free. The coffee is always on. Poor judgement by our commie government
May 15, 2013 4:15PM
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I remember when it was Show Biz Pizza. Same thing just a big Monkey and some friends playing music instead of a mouse. Laws like this are just so stupid. If your dumb enough to put all your money into a video slot machine that's your fault. Don't ruin things for the kids. This is some douche lawyer trying to get what he wants by copping out. That means he is saying if I cant do it, they cant either. Even if it is completely different
May 15, 2013 4:27PM
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The only thing the mouse should be arrested for is calling what they serve pizza. The kids love to go there and the staff is very accomodating.
May 15, 2013 4:24PM
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I say they should be investigating Chuck E.  The exchange rate on those skee-ball tickets is worse than the Zimbabwe dollar.   After spending $20 on tokens, my kid won like 2000 tickets that he exchanged for a pencil eraser, some stickers and a fake mustache.  Better payout at a casino.  At least you get free drinks.
May 15, 2013 4:11PM
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Alcohol and drugs, gambling, and prostitution, are diversions that go all the way back to our cave man days.  Our American society has made them our very own windmills and absolutely make a business out of jousting with them over and over again in so many different ways and venues.  LOL  However the sad part is that with prohibition comes violence and other kinds of criminal activity and that is what is wrong with trying to outlaw these kinds of activities.  On the other hand when we do provide some kind of outlet there are always those who spoil it by trying to push the limits. 

 

Regulate and control yes but ban and prevent no.  The human psyche' is wired to seek satisfaction for their desires one way or another and until our legislators grow up and learn to understand that then we will have more and more violence.  The best possible solutions for these social problems is to give those who wish to pursue them an outlet of some kind in much the same way that we provide a pressure valve on a hot water heater to prevent a disastrous explosion. 

 

We allow regulated consumption of alcohol and provide state lotteries and casinos for gambling so regulating these subculture type establishments is probably acceptable despite the uproar.  As I said earlier these places are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable.  Now as far as Chuck E Cheese I have to kind of laugh because a stuffed toy for a kid is nothing like a cash payout on a slot machine.  I have seen most of those games and they do require the child to exhibit some level of skill to win something and it stimulates their motor skills in the process.  Playing a chance type slot machine does nothing of the kind.  It is just a mindless waste of time and money.  So I see no problem here.  False equivalency.        

May 15, 2013 4:32PM
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Its okay for the Indians to have full gambling casinos on their reservations here in Florida.  Dog and horse racing is allowed.  The lottery is allowed.  Yet the Florida Governor takes away one simple pleasure of many Florida seniors.  Internet cafes are not going to make anyone but the owners rich.  They are indeed nothing more than an adult arcade.  For $20 a person can have an hour or two of fun and get a free meal as well.  I personally believe that they have been shut down due to the business taken away from the "legal" Indian casinos.   What a shame.  These internet cafes had provided an alternative for seniors to do something other than sit at home all day.  What is so wrong with that?  Instead of closing them - regulate them.
May 15, 2013 4:23PM
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This is getting stupid.  Gambling laws should only apply to actual currency and not prizes or artificial medals called coins.

 

May 15, 2013 5:02PM
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i gamble everytime i eat at chuck e cheese.
May 15, 2013 4:38PM
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I have never seen anyone get a $20 prize.  They get tickets that add up to less then a dollar.
May 15, 2013 4:52PM
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Allow them and allow gambling! This stupid nanny-state should have no right to tell me how I can or cannot spend my own money when I'm the one that goes to work to earn it! It's MY money because I WORKED for it and who are you to tell me that I shouldn't be able to use MY money to play poker? The crackdown on internet gambling - or any form of gambling - is just another nanny state idea that tries to control us and force their morality down our throats. In reality, it's probably lobbyists in Vegas, Atlantic City, etc that don't want casinos legal everywhere. Or maybe the government doesn't want us to spend as much money so that we have it when they decide to raise taxes again...
May 15, 2013 5:40PM
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Seeing that the Powerball jackpot is over 360 million dollars which is enticing me to purchase about 20 tickets does this mean if I don't win it tonight I can therefore file a frivolous lawsuit against the states involved in the Powerball for 10 million dollars because they enticed me with this lottery ? I Therefore think that's what I will do if I don't win. Any ambulance chasing scumbag lawyer out there up for defending me ?

May 15, 2013 5:32PM
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When is our government going to start cracking down on these ridiculous frivolous lawsuits that are filed by idiotic scumbags like that lady who filed the 5 million dollar lawsuit against Chuck E. Cheese ? And let's not forget her ambulance chasing scumbag lawyer who is representing her as he is just as guilty if not more because he probably pushed her to file the suit. How about some new reform on these lawyers ?
May 15, 2013 4:20PM
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May 15, 2013 3:49PM
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If you want to gamble go to a Casino all these electronic games everywhere is getting disgusting.  Pretty easy to understand how many people have addiction issues when there is no place a person can go to get a break from the temptation.
May 15, 2013 6:14PM
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When we start looking to GOD for the answers, we may get somewhere. Man is evil and greedy. Anything to make a buck and nothing to help someone.

I would love to see the days that only Gas and food items can be sold on Sunday. (Used to be called Blue Sunday Law in Texas Long Ago) Start going to CHURCH and hearing the word of GOD would and will save America.

 

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