Senate OKs bill to raise take on arcade game winnings - Your West Valley News: Valley & State

Senate OKs bill to raise take on arcade game winnings

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Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 2:58 pm

If you're good at arcade games, state lawmakers want you to be able to collect bigger prizes. Much bigger.

Legislation given preliminary Senate approval Tuesday would keep in place the current $4 limit on the value of prizes or tickets for winning any one game. But it would allow you to accumulate enough tickets to walk away with merchandise worth up to $550.

That cap is now just $35.

HB 2151, which already has been approved by the House, is being pushed by Mike Williams, a lobbyist for the Dave and Buster's nationwide chain of restaurants. But the measure, which needs only a final Senate roll-call vote before going to the governor, would also raise the ceiling on the prizes available at other places which feature games of skill like Chuck E. Cheese's and Peter Piper Pizza.

And the possibility of going for a bigger prize could provide an increased enticement for patrons to keep plunking those coins into the machines.

But Williams said there should be no major change. He said his client was offering prizes as big as Apple iPads -- clearly more than $35 -- until the state Department of Gaming came in last year and shut down the practice as violating the little-known limit.

Williams said there has been a trend in the restaurant industry to attract patrons by offering something more than food. In the case of Dave and Buster's, that has extended to bowling, shuffleboard and pool.

But he said the chain also has found an interest in video games and games of skill, like being able to toss a football through an opening, put a basketball through a hoop or show enough skill through at Skee-Ball tables to roll down an alley into selected targets.

Williams said the laws have always been crafted to limit individual incentives. So the best anyone could hope for in for doing well on any single game is a prize worth no more than $4.

More often than not, particularly at places geared for smaller children, they walk away with much smaller prizes. But larger ones are available for those with better skills -- and perhaps more patience -- can bank those tickets from game to game and visit to visit.

Williams said the new $550 limit was worked out after consultations with Native American tribes who now have the voter-approved exclusive right to operate casinos.

"The cap is still in there per game,'' he said.

"You can only win up to $4 worth of tickets,'' Williams continued. "But it does allow you to accumulate those and buy a better prize.''

Williams, in shepherding the measure through the Legislature -- so far without opposition -- has been portraying it to lawmakers as only fair to their constituents who have been going to places like Dave and Buster's for years.

"They had a number of their customers who had been saving for tickets (for bigger prizes) and then were a little upset when they couldn't do that,'' he said. Williams also said that, as a parent, "I don't want to take home a lot of junk that's going to break two days later.''

Without this change, Williams said that leaves customers who want the bigger prizes with only one option: Take their tickets, and go to California to redeem them for larger prizes.

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