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Beware of Fraudulent Amusement Games

With the constant rain finally gone, summer fun is in full swing. As people head to the Jersey shore and to amusement parks and fairs, they'll probably spend some time playing amusement games. Boardwalk and amusement games are fun, and if you're good enough, or lucky enough, you can win prizes.

New Jersey has rules in place to ensure that games of chance are conducted fairly. While most amusement games are operated legitimately, some are not, and you can lose your money trying to win a game that cannot be won. Unfortunately, some games can be rigged so that no one can win the big TV or giant teddy bear, regardless of skill. Lovers of games of chance need to know how the games should be operated so they can spot a fraudulent game when they see one. Below are two examples of problems that can occur:

Tag Balloon Dart Game

In this game you throw a dart at a balloon. If the balloon breaks, you win the prize that is marked on the tag behind that balloon.

What to look for:

  • A game board full of tags but with very few balloons to break.

  • Prizes of so many different sizes that you can't tell what you can win.

    Bushel Basket Ball Toss

    In this game you toss a softball-type ball into a large basket or large plastic tub. If you can keep the ball in the tub, you win. 

    What to look for:

  • An operator who shows you how the game is played, but not from the spot where you will be playing. The operator often stands closer and off to the side of the basket - you will be standing farther away and directly in front of the basket.

  • An operator who tells you, after your ball hits the rim of the basket and goes in, that your try doesn't count because hitting the rim is a foul, even though no rule is posted indicating that hitting the rim is a foul. Any ball that rests in the basket is a winner.

    Playing games and winning prizes can be fun, if you use common sense and operators follow these simple rules. Check out the following before you put your money down:

  • All games must be licensed. Look to see that the license is posted.

  • Rules must be clearly posted. If you can't understand the rules, don't play that game.

  • Remember that an operator cannot change the rules of play during game play.

  • The maximum charge to play a game is $5.00. The price must be posted.

  • An operator must give you your change back immediately. If he holds your change, he may try to entice you to continue playing the game longer than you wish to.

  • Never agree to play an amusement game for a cash prize. State law prescribes "prizes of merchandise only."

  • A prize must be labeled indicating what it takes to win it. If you can't figure out how to win a prize, be wary. You may see large expensive prizes in a booth, but your chance of winning them may be small. Check it out.

  • If the game and the prizes look like they're too good to be true, DON'T PLAY!

    Know the games and what to look for. A complete set of rules of play for most amusement games is available on the Internet at Simply click on "Amusement Game Certification of Permissibility."

    Concerned that you may have been cheated?

    If you think you may have been cheated at an amusement game at the shore, an amusement park or a fair, contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission. Call (973) 273-8000, E-mail your query to, or send your complaint in writing to P.O. Box 46000, Newark, N.J. 07101.

    If someone you know has gambling problem, refer him/her to 1-800-GAMBLER.


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