Parent Seeks $5 Million in Damages for Chuck E. Cheese’s Promotion of Child “Gambling”

A San Diego mother of two young children recently filed a class-action suit in California federal court against Chuck E. Cheese’s, in which she alleges that the restaurant chain’s gaming machines are actually illegal gambling devices which could “foster addictive behavior in children by enticing them to play repeatedly for tickets.”  Although she seeks $5 million in damages, reports that her attorney says the money is secondary to his client, who primarily wants to see the gaming machines removed from the restaurants.

The attorney for the plaintiff, Eric Benink, reportedly has said he does not think that “children should be exposed to casino-style gambling devices at an arcade.”  The complaint notes that with some exceptions, gambling is illegal in the state of California, although an exception is made for games that are based predominantly on skill.  Here, the complaint (boldly) alleges, the games are based largely on chance and “create the same highs and lows experienced by adults who gamble their paychecks or the mortgage payment.”  The games, of course, rely mostly on 25-cent tokens and, depending on the player’s score, dispense tickets that can be redeemed for prizes.  The higher the player’s score, the greater number of tickets dispensed; the more tickets, the better the prize.

Attorneys for Chuck E. Cheese’s are moving to dismiss the suit on two grounds.  First, they argue that the California Legislature never intended to make the operation of a children’s arcade game a criminal act.  Second and more interestingly, they contend that even if the game systems were illegal, then the plaintiff parent would be an admitted participant in illegal gambling and therefore is barred from seeking damages and restitution.

AOL News quotes one supporter of the lawsuit, whose daughter is “addicted” to the “Claw,” as saying: “We have left Chuck E. Cheese’s in her [sic] in tears begging for one more quarter.  I’ve seen her going through my purse for quarters.  It’s devastating.”  This latest lawsuit seems to serve as one more example of a lack of accountability of parents, who certainly have the option of keeping their children away from institutions that lure them into developing “gambling habits,” without the necessity of litigation.

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