SEASIDE HEIGHTS — If you come up empty handed after 15 attempts to snag a toy out of a claw machine, or throw away $20 failing to sink a free throw, state officials want to make sure it's because you're just not skilled enough — not because the game is rigged.

Investigators are in the middle of their annual campaign to ensure safety and fairness at all arcades, amusement game set-ups and shops within the state's seaside resorts.

Initial inspections in Seaside Heights and Atlantic City uncovered alleged violations by 12 establishments.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced their findings at a press event Tuesday afternoon on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

"It's all about transparency, it's all about fairness, it's all about having good, safe, positive memories here at the boardwalk," Grewal said.

The inspection of eight arcades and 27 individual amusement games found five locations with a total of 11 violations. Crane machines were loaded with prizes too heavy or tightly-packed to be lifted, and a boardwalk game's top prize was found to be impossible to win.

The violations will be presented to the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission for possible action.

"This doesn't mean that there was bad faith; people make mistakes," said Paul Rodriguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "If it seems that it's simply a small, minor issue, there might be education."

Of 25 stores inspected, seven were found to be in violation of the law, displaying products without clearly-marked prices, and failing to prominently post a refund policy.

As part of the Safe Summer initiative, 266 amusement game licensees will be visited at least once this season. Since the initiative launched in 2014, 183 game-related violations have been issued. Fines can be $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for additional offenses. Operators' licenses can be revoked as well.

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