Walt Disney World hotels will no longer offer prizes at video game arcades, where children redeem points for toys, candy, and other rewards. The company says it is also dropping joystick-controlled claw games inspired by the one in “Toy Story.”
Some industry insiders say Disney might be acting preemptively to avoid legal action related to the 2013 law. Opponents have already sued arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s, saying the chains are in violation of the broadly written rules.
Rulings on the lawsuits are pending.
“I’m sure Disney’s the last place in the world that wants to get accused of operating a gambling house,” said Florida Arcade and Bingo Association attorney Michael Wolf in an interview with the Sentinel.
Under the law, for each game played, individuals cannot win prizes valued at more than 75 cents. Games must only be coin-operated; Disney arcades use cards.
Points accumulate with each played, and cards can be exchanged for plush toys, Disney princess purses, mini-air-hockey games and other prizes.
Disney will not lay off any of the 22 arcade workers and by mid-February, Pedicini says they will move the employees to new positions.
Note’able Games at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort has already closed redemption counters. Five other hotels – the Contemporary, All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies, Pop Century and Art of Animation – have counters slated to close.
Closing on Feb. 8m the Tomorrowland Arcade in the Magic Kingdom will close, with those games going to hotel arcades, as replacements for the games that issue points for prizes.
The Game Station at the Contemporary resort is home to dozens of electronic games, such as Pac-Man, Frogger, and Monopoly, which issue electronic “tickets” to exchange prizes. The more you earn, the bigger the prizes.
Last week, Lakeland Republican State Sen. Kelli Stargel filed legislation seeking to loosen the rules governing family entertainment centers, allowing card-operated machines and higher value prizes. Stargel filed similar legislation last year, but it died in committee.
Stargel, who represents the area including Disney World, said she has not been contacted by Disney lobbyists on the issue. Nevertheless, Stargel did speak with other businesses, including some in her district, and representatives of Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s, chains still offering prizes.
“We’d prefer for them to not take that away,” said Mike Abecassis, owner of GameTime family entertainment centers. “It just makes our business less relevant in the state.”
Internet cafes were banned in 2013 after a multistate probe into Allied Veterans of the World, a self-described charitable organization supporting veterans but was found to only give 2 percent of its profits to veterans.
Pedicini notes that the Legislation also resulted in the closure of several senior arcades, which offer small prizes such as Publix gift cards. Florida Arcade and Bingo Association had represented many of those arcades.
Wolf filed lawsuits against Dave & Buster’s and other operators. The litigation is currently on hold, while both sides await the results of a federal lawsuit.
“For the Legislature to think gambling for kids is OK but not for adults was pretty hypocritical,” Wolf said. “That was essentially what we were setting out to show.”