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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Boardwalk Game Operator Banned for 10 Years

Folks enjoy a sunny summer’s day on the boardwalk in Wildwood.
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock.com

Folks enjoy a sunny summer’s day on the boardwalk in Wildwood.

By Christopher South

NEWARK – The New Jersey attorney general announced a 10-year ban on the license holder for several gaming businesses on the Wildwood and North Wildwood boardwalk, citing practices that violated standards for games of chance and essentially were “fraud on the public.”
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin Feb. 15 said the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission (LGCCC) banned Christine Strothers from holding Amusement Games Licenses (AGLs) for not less than 10 years.
According to a state Office of Attorney General (OAG) press release, Strothers operated amusement games at locations along the boardwalk in Wildwood and North Wildwood. Strothers also received a $15,500 fine for failing to comply with the Amusement Games Licensing Law and accompanying regulations.
Strothers held licenses for businesses at 2818, 3206, 3208 and 3818 Boardwalk in Wildwood and at 2301 Boardwalk in North Wildwood.
The OAG’s release said that in spring 2022, Strothers received seven AGLs to operate short-range and long-range basketball and quarterback challenge football throw games at several stores and businesses along the boardwalk.
During summer 2022, investigators for the LGCCC inspected each game and found several basketballs used for the basketball games inflated to more than the manufacturer’s specifications, some by almost three times the recommended pounds per square inch (PSI) of air.
Operators are required to follow the recommended PSI. Failing to do so can unfairly affect a player’s chances of winning, as an overinflated ball can bounce erratically when it hits the rim or backboard of the hoop.
The OAG said the issue of overinflated basketballs has been an area of focus recently for the LGCCC. Investigators issued letters in August 2021 to basketball game operators to let them know that the commission would be making inspections and issuing violations if the PSI was not correct.
In addition to using overinflated basketballs, the commission found Strothers violated the regulations related to the display of prizes. One of Strothers’ games had large plush animals in the stand that were not able to be won, and on another occasion, the operator didn’t show the prizes that could be won.
In another instance, an investigator was not immediately given change after paying $20 to play a quarterback challenge game that cost $10, as required by N.J.A.C. 13:3-3.4, which reads, “Upon receipt of currency greater than the charge to play a game, the licensee shall immediately remit the appropriate change to the player.”
“Every person who plays an amusement game in the State of New Jersey deserves a fair shot at winning a prize,” Platkin said. “The Jersey Shore is one of the biggest draws in the state for families looking for fun and recreation and we are making sure those families are not being scammed out of their hard-earned money.”
Findings of fact provided with the action report say LGCCC inspectors visited Strothers’ businesses on six dates during the summer of 2022 – June 23, July 14, Aug. 11, Aug. 17, Aug. 22 and Sept. 10 – each time noting similar violations.
A preliminary hearing was held Nov. 2, 2022, and Strothers was advised a second hearing could be held Nov. 14, 2022, when she could respond or request a dismissal of the order.
Strothers requested an adjournment to obtain counsel but had not done so by a scheduled Jan. 24 hearing.
According to the LGCCC’s administrative action, filed with the state Department of Community Affairs Feb. 8, Strothers did not respond in writing and did not attend the hearing. A default decision was entered in the case. During the penalty phase of the hearing, it was determined that since Strothers’ licenses expired Dec. 31, 2022, that revocation was not an appropriate measure, and the deputy attorney general recommended the ban.
The $15,500 fine includes a $500 fine for each of the 31 basketballs determined to be overinflated. The commission opted not to cite Strothers for holding the change that was due to the investigators at the quarterback challenge game, or for the display of prizes that could not be won.
Strothers was fined $16,500 in 2021. The commission determined that the repeated violations showed an unwillingness “to operate in accord with standards designed to ensure fairness in the operation of games, amounting to a fraud on the public.”
Strothers has 30 days from the date the decision was rendered to pay the fines by certified check or money order. If not paid by that time, the commission will docket the order with Superior Court.
LGCCC investigators conduct inspections along boardwalks, in amusement parks, and in other entertainment venues, visiting every one of the state’s amusement game licensees at least once a year.
In 2022 alone, LGCCC investigators conducted 7,000 inspections, resulting in approximately $35,000 in penalties and violations.
“Investigators are always on the lookout to ensure a safe and fair experience for everyone who plays an amusement game on the boardwalk,” said Cari Fais, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Amusement game operators who aren’t playing by the rules spoil the fun for everyone and they will be held accountable.”
Consumers who believe that an amusement game is being operated in violation of the Amusement Games Licensing Law are encouraged to file an online complaint. Consumers can also call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail. 
Thoughts? Questions? Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

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