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Non-complex cat D gaming machines (crane grabs)

Certain types of machine currently operated as skill with prize (SWP).

Published: 28 May 2021

Last updated: 11 June 2021

This version was printed or saved on: 12 July 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/guide/non-complex-cat-d-gaming-machines-crane-grabs

Overview: Certain types of machine currently operating as skill with prize, with a maximum stake of £1 and a maximum prize of £50 (non-monetary) should be labelled as category D non-complex crane grab machines.

Classification of crane machines

As these are gaming machines, a premises licence or permit from the local authority is needed to site them. Depending on the type of premises, some unlicensed operators will also need to apply for an operating licence.

Although the majority of this type of machine are operated as cranes within adult gaming and family entertainment centres under the category D stake and prize limits, there has been a trend where they are being offered to the public. When offered to the public, they are presented as a skill machine as opposed to a gaming machine, without the necessary permissions to do so. This occurs in pubs, shopping centres, motorway service areas and other similar venues.

Machines which are capable of being used as a gaming machine, whether or not they are currently operating as a gaming machine, are classified as a gaming machine. For example, a machine fitted with a compensator, which allows it to be converted from a skill machine to a gaming machine, is classified as a gaming machine.

You can see a more detailed definition of gaming machines in section 235 of the Gambling Act (opens in a new tab)

Machines using a mechanical arm or similar device to select a prize and which employ a compensator unit to determine the percentage pay-out of the machine, need to be clearly marked as a gaming machine (skill and chance combined). They also may only be operated in premises where the necessary permissions are in place.

Operators supplying or maintaining these types of machine must have an operator’s licence. Check the public register for those who hold or have applied for an operators’ licence.

Warning Where the relevant permission has not been granted the machine should be removed from the site immediately.

Machine technical standards

Where a machine determines whether a player has an opportunity to win a prize partly by chance (using a compensator or control system to control the payout) but also by a player using a degree of skill to ultimately win the prize, the machine would be considered a game of chance and skill combined.

This is defined by section 6(2)(a) of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in a new tab) as a game of chance and will therefore be defined as a gaming machine.

We will consider amending the definition of category D non-complex crane machines in our Technical Standards to replicate the definition of crane in The Categories of Gaming Machine (Amendment) Regulations 2009 (No 1502) (opens in a new tab).

A crane grab machine is a reference to a non-money prize machine in respect of which:

In general, the only requirement needed to make existing crane grab machines compliant with this regulation and our technical standards would be to include a display notice on the machine stating that it is a category D gaming machine with the proviso that the stake or prize does not exceed the statutory limits of £1-£50 respectively and that prizes are totally non-monetary.

Suppliers/operators will be aware that other requirements such as Gamcare information (or equivalent) must also be met.

Should the industry attempt to exploit the situation in a manner deemed undesirable or outside the spirit of that intended then we may review our position in this matter.

Limited prize machines

Limited prize machines have been around for many years and the most recent type seems to be the ‘play until you win’ or ‘prize every time’ crane machine, although there may be other types.

Section 249 of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in a new tab) states that a person does not commit an offence under section 37 or 242 (of the Gambling Act 2005) if they make a gaming machine available for use by an individual; and the individual does not, by using the machine, acquire an opportunity to win a prize of a value in excess of the amount paid for or in connection with use of the machine.

The explanatory notes to the Gambling Act elaborate on this a little and say a ‘limited prize’ is “a prize whose value does not exceed any payment made for use of the machine”. That is, the prize value does not exceed the cost to play.

This exemption means that a licence or permit is not required to cover the siting of a limited prize machine.

Skill with prize machines (SWPs)

There are no statutory limits in place regulating stakes and prizes for SWPs, however, the Commission and HMRC are of the view that it is unlikely that a maximum prize greater than £50 would be commercially viable in a genuine skill game.

A voluntary limit had previously been agreed between machine manufacturers and trade bodies, limiting the price of one game to £1 and the maximum prize to £50 (wholesale value).

See the quick guide on SWPs (PDF) for more information.