Amusement park and carnival games. Are they rigged?

crazy horse's avatar

I just watched a story on how carnival games are rigged.

This is one of the reasons I don't play the games at a carnival or amusement park.

Does anyone feel the same way?

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Mamoosh's avatar

I do. The only amusement game I play is Fascination.

Steel Pier has games that are rigged, like the article mentions the basketball hoops are oval shaped.

I don't think games are rigged at most amusement parks, the exception being skill cranes. Now they have DS and PSP systems as prizes and they are impossible to pick up and I have never seen anyone win at cranes with those types of prizes.

Carnival games probably are rigged, I don't go to carnivals anyway. They are expensive and I don't trust the rides since most ride accidents happen at carnivals.

Last edited by YoshiFan,
crazy horse's avatar

The only game I will play is skee ball.

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

kpjb's avatar

Sometimes we staple the hats down.


Raven-Phile's avatar

Nice. ^

All amusement parks create skill games to give them an 'edge', the same as the 'house advantage' in casinos.

However, many states have enforcement programs in place to avoid operator misconduct, and protect consumers rights. Enough said.

The big difference is that 'on the road', the games are operated with the workers getting a percentage of the gross, minus the cost of goods going out as winners. Park operators start kids at minimum wage. Big difference.

Its very well known in the park end of things that cranes are adjusted to allow for more or less winners, Redbone sells oval hoops, and you can order several different sizes of rings for the bottles. Basketballs are pumped up, but they better still go through the hoop. Quarter Pitch plates are added for regular game days, but some are removed when premium prizes are to given out, like a tv.

Bobs Space Racer group games are the best defense, a 'winner every time', but at $136,000 plus for each unit, its much cheaper to build a cat rack and raise the cross bar to have less winners. Even the 'fool the guesser' has a major advantage on you.

Parks don't rig the games, but they are a profit center.

It always looked to me that the basketballs are smaller than the regulation ball. So a person can't comfortably hold the ball with two hands like they're used to with a regular ball, and this throws off their shooting motion. It's more like throwing a cantaloupe than a basketball.

I won't mention a specific park, because I can't say for sure I saw something not kosher. But at one of those water gun games, where the first person to fill up whatever the target was with water, I thought I caught a glimpse of the operator controlling which target was filling up quickest. It was almost like he was draining certain targets, because even though a few shooters were dead on, some of the targets didn't seem to be filling near as fast as one. Again, I can't say I saw anything fishy for sure. And someone did ultimately win, so it's not like "the house" won all the time. Maybe they didn't want to make it look like one gun won all the time, while others never did.

Games are all about chance. Unfortunately, the chance is either playing at the right time, or sheer dumb luck. The games are not impossible, but rather designed so the margin or error is little to none. Perfect trap for the common uninformed player. For me, I stick to games more about skill. Bowler Rollers are the way to go!

coasterqueenTRN's avatar

This isn't exactly news to me. They are rigged about as much as casino games. You either waste your money or you have sheer luck. I do see a lot of people winning, though. I also wonder how much money they spent to get that oversized stuffed animal. ;)

Personally I don't care for those games. I would rather spend my money on skeeball and arcade games. :) At least you get your money's worth with those!


Last edited by coasterqueenTRN,
rollergator's avatar

"Well, that settles it. Everybody grab a broom, it's shenanigans!"

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Jeff's avatar

AJFelice said:
Games are all about chance.

Actually, no, they aren't, because then it would be gambling, and not legal.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar's avatar

The abundance of stupid plush animals that have resided in my kids' rooms over the years leads me to believe that no, the games aren't rigged.

Hell, sometimes it seems too easy to get a prize - like the game is just a front so it doesn't feel like you're buying stupid overpriced toys.

Even the 'fool the guesser' has a major advantage on you.

I've done the Fool The Guesser over 20 times in my "parking life," including my recent visit to Canada's Wonderland. I have never lost. I've always looked older than I am because of my baldness, so the age guess is always incorrect. The one in Canada was close, though..I'm 45, he guessed 48, and of course, the guesser has the "within two years" wiggle room.

Last edited by Mike Gallagher,

The amusement park rises bold and are huddled on the beach in a mist

I worked at a park in the games area. They aren't so much rigged as they all just have a specific way of beating them.Most parks don't let games employees play the games on their day off. Cause throughout the season as I got shifted from game to game I could figure out how to beat them all. So they are possible, you just have to spend a whole summer figuring them out.Now I can throw the football through the tire at the parks and win all the time. I get my limit of 2 larges or whatever and go on my way. That one has to do with how you hold the ball. If you hold it like a regular football you're screwed from the get go...

Of course you've won Fool the Guesser every time, or almost every time. The house edge in that game is the cost of the prize vs. the cost of the game. It is, as somebody else said, a way of getting some entertainment as you overpay for that piece of plush.

The rigging of games, or the alledged rigging of games, goes way back. I just saw it as a theme on an Andy Griffith episode. I think the take away is that in the past enough of them were rigged so that the industry battles that perception to this day.

Just like a casino, though, the bigger operators make their money on volume and have a reputation to protect. I mean just imagine the backlash if CNN ran an expose on rigged games at Six Flags parks?

Some states do agressivley oversee the games, I recall reading an article about Florida where if a game wants to present itself as a Basketball game, then all the equipment has to be genuine, so that if the game claims to be a free throw, the game has to present to the player an honest to goodness free throw shot. Same with a three point shot. More interesting in that story, is the article continued by saying, "And that's why at this year's fair, you'll see a lot of "asketball" games.(note: the absence of the 'B' is not a typo) It boggles the mind that people would play, and operators would openly exhibit, a game that the state inspectors have determined does not offer the player a fair basketball shot.

David Bowers
Mayor, Coasterville
My Blog ->

I worked in games at GL back in the day...and I was a pretty good "Guesser". Even when you win, you lose. As David mentions the cost of the plush and other prizes, particularly when they buy in the bulk quantities that they do, makes them a winner every time. Very often I would intentionally "lose" as the guesser just to build up a crowd of folks wanting to turn over $3 for a $.75 cent prize.

Now, back then GL still had some games of chance like the color muffin pan toss. Put your quarters on yellow and hope that a ball thrown in will land on yellow instead of one of the other 11 colors. But, I think the crackdown eventually drove those types of games to the dump.

I would think common sense is also your friend here.

Look at the game on offer, specifically the prize and the price. You know the park/carnival/whatever is doing this to make money. So if you see a game offering, say, an X-Box, and the price per play is $1 you have a pretty good idea of the hundreds of losers they expect for every winner. Sure, they get the prizes at wholesale, but they also want to make a tidy margin on the whole affair.

Now let's say you see a small plush figure of the trendy cartoon character of the day being offered, and a $3-$5 per play price tag, you can feel they probably don't expect many losers. At which point it becomes a toy shop with a little entertainment thrown in. I see this one in kid's areas of major parks, where the games are increasingly designed that even if you technically lose the game, you still get the prize. Or the game is made so that losing is impossible, say a Duck Pond for example.

The one that get's me is the arcade game I see popping up all over. its the one where you light the rings on the lighthouse, according to where you land on the spinner, you move up and down the lighthouse and hope to land on the prize ring. Then I see the game cabinet has Nintendo DS's as prizes. At a quarter a play, that kind of gives me a picture on how long your odds are.

I can also remember the chance based games, like the muffin tin game described above, or even color wheels being used at parks.

David Bowers
Mayor, Coasterville
My Blog ->

I think that the lighthouse/stacker type games usually have pre-set odds. I've seen figures as high as 1 in 800 for the big prizes at that game which is exactly the reason why I stopped playing those. You need skill to get up to that last line (or level), but after that it's essentially determined by whether the machine is ready to pay out or not. Not good.

The only games that I'll play now at parks are bowler roller (if there's something good being offered), bank-a-ball (again, if there's something good being offered) and three point challenge. I can usually do OK at those games, but everything else I've learned to stay away from. It's just a matter of figuring out where your skill set is.

RPM's avatar

Jeff said:

AJFelice said:
Games are all about chance.

Actually, no, they aren't, because then it would be gambling, and not legal.

I'd say some games are all about chance. At Waldameer they have this fishing game where your prize is determined by the color of paper you pull out of the fishes mouth. Granted, you always win something because you can keep trying until you 'catch' something. But if you get a tiny fish or a nice big dog is completely up to chance. Is that gambling?

Last edited by RPM,

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