How Not to Teach Children about Gambling

Photo of a claw vending machine taken by Brian Katt. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

A recent post at Poop and Boogies jogged my memory about a development at our local Round Table Pizza.

Remember pizza parlors? Unfortunately, a dying industry. We have handful within several hundred square miles, most of them Round Tables.

Anyhow, when my daughter was 3-years-old she attended a birthday party at the parlor and she played one round of a car racing arcade game. She never forgot it. A year later, sometime in the last few months on another visit I gave in and plunked in 3 quarters so she could play once more. That’s my rule. One game per visit.

But then, most recently with her friend present, I had two jumping kids insisting that I could be their hero if I would just hand over quarters so they could play a claw vending machine.

You know… use a joystick to maneuver a crane-like claw that then drops and tries to pick up a prize from a mass grave of stuffed animals. Except, 9 times out of 10 the claw will drop ham-fisted onto the animals and then raise up like a limp noodle, never really attempting to clutch anything.

It’s essentially gambling. The smart approach is to watch other fools lose their money with several claw attempts, then give it a try yourself. Except, on this particular day I was the only father gullible enough to give in to excited, jumping kids.

The kids didn’t even know how the claw machine worked, so I explained it to them. My master plan was to demonstrate the value exchange that occurs with money. You could enjoy 90 seconds of insane giggles as you slam your car continuously into a guard rail, sparks flying, as Dad sits on the floor and holds down the gas pedal for you.


You could spend 15 seconds pushing a joystick, 5 seconds watching a claw lower and rise, and then realize you’ve unwisely spent your money.

Foolproof, eh?

Step 1. Before we even begin, my daughter sticks her hand in the prize chute and pulls out a pink Beanie Baby bear that was just sitting there unclaimed. @#$%^&*!

Step 2. Her friend operates the claw to no avail. His 50 cents are gone. I mean, my 50 cents are gone.

Step 3. On my daughter’s turn she barely moves the joystick, not understanding how it works. The claw drops after the machine’s time limit is reached, and the claw deposits a second Beanie Baby in the prize chute. @#$%^&*!

One bright moment is realized when she takes less than a second to shove the second Beanie Baby into her friend’s hand because she already “won” one.

Okay kids, so what did we learn? Gambling never pays.

No, uh, a fool and his money are soon parted? Daddy is a sucker?

Photo of our pink Beanie Baby wearing a green shirt emblazoned with pink flamingos.

By the way, Groovy Girl doll outfits totally fit Beanie Babies. My daughter is calling this guy Rosey despite the Don Johnson Miami Vice outfit she picked for him.

P.S. I apologize for the crotch shot. I just noticed.


14 Responses to “How Not to Teach Children about Gambling”

  1. Allison says:

    But but but but…claw machines never give prizes!? Your daughter has some crazy lucky claw machine mojo! Sorry the lesson didn’t go as planned :(

    April 1st, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  2. Farah says:

    Funny! Never put change into a machine when the stuffed animals are packed in tightly together, it makes it impossible to grab one. If one is loose from the pack it might be grabbable. You have to come in from the side a little. There is some skill involved, it isn’t all luck.

    April 1st, 2009 at 4:49 pm

  3. Kara says:

    This is another place where I’m grateful for my 4 year old’s imagination. I never give him money to play these thing, in fact I almost never have any change in the first place… it doesn’t stop him from playing though. He’s happy to just pretend with the joystick and then he pretends to claim his prize. When we got in the car tonight after dinner, he thought for a moment that he’d forgotten his “prizes” at the table. I produced the imaginary toys from my pocket and all was well. I’ll be sad when the day comes that I can’t fix problems that easily.

    April 1st, 2009 at 7:16 pm

  4. Magda says:

    Wow. I remember spending (someone else’s) $10 on one of those things, desperate for a prize.

    April 1st, 2009 at 7:41 pm

  5. Kym says:

    You got bit by karma. It always happens to me, too. I remember my engineer husband and I explaining to our sons that the law of averages works with coin tosses— eventually they would both get equal goodies….After my older son won every coin toss for a year, we threw in the towel and alternated turns. Sometimes the universe takes a perverse pleasure in stomping on parents.

    April 1st, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  6. nrbp says:

    And now you’ve got a pair of confirmed gamblers on your hands…

    April 1st, 2009 at 10:22 pm

  7. William says:

    Thanks for the link. We had a run-in with a claw machine at Friendlys, which is why I wanted to start my list.

    April 2nd, 2009 at 8:10 am

  8. Bitsy says:

    Ahhhhh… claw machines. The best is when the claw grabs a toy by the tiniest thread–maybe just barely hooking the toy’s label on one of its metal fingers–and everyone holds their breath to see if the toy will make it to the prize chute…

    April 2nd, 2009 at 4:15 pm

  9. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    As I recall, growing up, my parents would never put money in any of those machines (the vending machines or the video games or the claw). When we had our own money, we could spend it (almost) any way we liked (there were still things “off limits”)

    April 3rd, 2009 at 7:09 am

  10. Jen says:

    I’ve never been one to play any of those machines, or even try to win carnival type games. i think it’s a waste of money, and usually the prizes are so cheap anyway.
    My husband on the otherhand insists on winning stuffed animals for our daughters… and then complains that they have too many. figure that one out!!!!!!

    April 3rd, 2009 at 1:48 pm

  11. Ari says:

    Have you seen those other ‘gambling’ type video games set up at malls lately? It’s a game where you progressively play the machine (it’s a timing game, where you hit the buzzer as the light moves into a certain area) and if you reach the top level, you “win” a Wii.
    I think they’re horrible! They’re strategically set up at malls and make people think.. hmm… maybe i can ‘win’ a $300 toy for $5 if I play this game.. huh?? huh?? bad bad bad!

    Just found your site and i do love it, btw.

    April 5th, 2009 at 7:38 am

  12. Kirra says:

    Yes, my brother got stuck with one of the chocolate machines like this.

    His daughter wanted to spend her money on it and he was telling her it was a waste of time. Not only did you have to pick up the chocolates with the claw and get to the prize chute but anything picked up was dropped onto a prize shelf with a continuously moving arm that then pushed the chocolates (and any from people before that hadn’t gone off the shelf) off the shelf into the prize shute.You could pick up chocolates but still not get any to get off the shelf.

    Eventually he gave in because it was her money and thought she would learn a lesson. It backfired when she managed to get the chocolates she picked up to cause an avalanche of the existing chocolates on the shelf.

    She walked away with an arm full of chocolates, worth about $5 or $6, for her $1 invested.

    April 7th, 2009 at 8:40 pm

  13. csb says:

    You’ll never stop gambling… it’s literally impossible to ‘teach’ anyone about how not to gamble.. sure there are those who stop gambling through the insights learned while losing vast sums of money… but it’s like smoking, drugs and many other obsessions that cannot be governed by example or any laws.

    I’d say that these are appropriate responses, for sure for growing children. It’s funny though, my parents taught me and my brother how to gamble, Poker, before we were 13… with real money! I’m a very good Poker Player… but I sure know how not to gamble from years of losing but never losing too much…

    I’d say the most deadly thing of all to children these days is television. That Box is really troubling. I know that if I did have a child, I’d be very, very careful to censor just about everything on it. Just the News alone is unhealthy in the extreme…

    I can’t tell you how disgusted I am by it’s inflection… It literally offends me… Not the People upon it but the undercurrent that is within it. I only watch movies (Netflix) etc. I cancelled my Satellite Television hookup some time ago and the only time I see it is when I go out to the kitchen to prepare a meal, where my Dad has it on. I listen to it talk, But it says nothing to me. A Politician isn’t going to improve my life any I assure you. My life is nothing that this Government has in mind. This I learned on America’s actual streets some time ago, where there isn’t anything to hold onto.

    It’s a shame, in a nation such as ours that so much that is agreed to often becomes a right of way.

    –Very fine Website by the way.

    April 9th, 2009 at 8:18 am

  14. Lori says:

    Har! My husband is actually “good” at these things. Wins something every time he goes at ‘em. The last time we were at IHOP we watched the vending repair man refill the machine, packing the animals down. My husband walked up to it, deposited 50 cents, moved the claw, picked up an animal and walked away. I thought the repair man would trip over his jaw sitting on the floor.

    This doesn’t bode well for us as parents …

    April 11th, 2009 at 5:48 am