Opinion Brief

Is Chuck E. Cheese creating tiny gambling addicts?

A mom claims the restaurant's arcade games are like kiddie slot machines. She wants them removed — plus millions in damages

A California mother of two is suing Chuck E. Cheese Pizza for $5 million, claiming that the family restaurant's arcade games transform kids into gamblers. Debbie Keller, who has 3- and 5-year-old children, says many of the chain's games are essentially kiddie slot machines, spitting out winnings — in this case, tickets redeemable for prizes — based on chance rather than skill. Keller's lawyers say the games "create the same highs and lows experienced by adults who gamble their paychecks or the mortgage payment." Chuck's lawyers counter that the games harm no one and break no laws. Is Chuck E. Cheese essentially a casino for kids?

Yes, Chuck E. Cheese is a Vegas-like scam: "It's time to crown a new hero in the mom world," says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. Keller is right that many Chuck E. Cheese machines are games of chance. When kids can't win enough tickets to "pick up their piece of plastic junk," they end up shrieking, forcing parents to buy game tokens until their offspring hits the jackpot — it's the only way to "get yourself to somewhere more pleasant, somewhere with wine."
"Chuck E. Cheese lawsuit mom is hero of parents everywhere"

No, Keller is just trying to cash in: Having a few games that are based on luck doesn't make Chuck E. Cheese a casino, says Perez Hilton. And even if it were a gambling den, Keller and her kids were willing participants, so, by law, she's not entitled to collect damages. "If anyone has developed a gambling addiction, it may be Debbie Keller, who is rolling her legal dice for a $5 million jackpot!"
"Chuck E. Cheese sued for promoting gambling addiction"

Both sides make a solid case: Keller has a point, but so does Chuck E. Cheese, says Scott Bullock at The Escapist. Claiming that a game like skee-ball doesn't require skill is "clearly absurd." But, as someone who was lured into the mouse's lair as a kid, "I seem to recall spending a lot of time at the flashy-light roulette wheel, pumping in tokens and muttering, "C'mon... daddy needs a new alien pencil-topper."
"Woman suing Chuck E. Cheese's for promoting childhood gambling"

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