Decade-Old Ban on Claw Machines Finally Enforced

Players try to grab prizes using claw machines at a Chiang Mai shopping mall on June 16.
Players try to grab prizes using claw machines at a Chiang Mai shopping mall on June 16.

BANGKOK — A ban on claw machine games is finally being enforced, more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled they are illegal gambling machines. 

Visitpat Anantarasuchart, the head of legal affairs at the Department of Provincial Administration, vowed on Tuesday to heighten investigations into suspected arcade machines because they are “luring the youths.” 

Authorities seized a claw machine in Udon Thani on June 17, a raid prompted by a public complaint. 

In 2004, the Supreme Court classified the popular arcade games, where players use a joystick to control a claw with the aim of retrieving prizes, as “gambling machines”. 


Under the Gambling Act, any machine where players win or lose possessions is classified as gambling. The act’s annex also listed games like lucky draws, bingo, and even table footballs as gambling. But the law has not been strictly enforced, with claw machines remaining a common sight in shopping malls around the country.

The law requires a license to operate gambling machines, but no such license has ever been granted, according to a phone interview with an unnamed department official on Wednesday. 

A Ministry of Interior internal memo dated October 31, 2006 also specified that its official policy not to grant gambling licenses.

The official refused to answer whether claw machines will continue to be tacitly allowed going forward, answering that “they have to be investigated on a case by case basis.”

On Monday, the Customs Department seized containers of arcade machines imported from China falsely declared as “metal office furniture.”


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