It is interesting to note the report in our email news service this week that cranes in New Jersey will be subjected to more strict regulation to ensure a more "reasonable" win percentage.

This is a thorny subject. Cranes are a popular amusement around the world, but some jurisdictions don’t permit them and some, like it seems New Jersey, would seek to impose minimum percentage payouts.

The New Jersey situation was stirred up by some negative reporting through the local media and now the famous New Jersey shoreline’s arcades will face tough new restrictions on their crane machines’ profitability. Of course it goes without saying that in many cases of crackdown on crane machines, the root cause must lie with the operators.

The temptation to adjust the machines to the pitch where they return the maximum to the operator is just too good to ignore. Net result: players are frustrated, suspicion is aroused and bad publicity engendered.

Sensible operators use the percentaging controls which these days are in the best equipment – notably the Elaut Eclaw range, for example – to ensure a fair return to the player. A scan across Google headlines from the New Jersey media in the run-up to the announcement of plans to crack down on cranes suggests that the player was only going to be successful once every 21 attempts.

I have seen £10 bills strapped around soft toys in cranes in seaside arcades… The win ratio must be so low that knowing players won’t even go there.

In the past few weeks we have also seen a YouTube situation where a Japanese player was demonstrating how to quickly rotate the control lever to create a swinging motion with the claw, which considerably heightens the win ratio. The claw may toss the toy closer to the payout cup. This is another of the operators’ difficulties. If the players become too adept then the "skill" element is increased to the point where the percentages are altered significantly.

It all comes down to a very precise calculation of the balance between cost, risk and fairness. That in itself is a skill on the part of the operator. But the bottom line is that they switch off the player and they might as well switch off the game.