Where Are Coin Pushers Legal?

by LegalFix
Posted: June 15, 2022
gaming law

The aptly-named “coin pusher” is an arcade game that literally pushes coins. If you’re unfamiliar with these machines, people put coins or tokens in the machine and attempt to stockpile as many as possible to push them off the edge and win more coins, tickets, or even prizes. You may have seen these machines at arcades, but they were commonly found in casinos until the late 90s.

Modern coin pushers appear quite flashy, complete with bright lights and new objectives, but are fundamentally the same as original versions. While it may seem like innocent fun, since these addictive games are akin to gambling, they are illegal in many states. 

How Do Coin Pushers Work?

In 1964, a company named Crompton released the world’s first coin pusher, which closely resembled the ones we use today. Soon, coin pushers grew in popularity, and you could find them in arcades across the globe. In fact, many classic coin pushers are still available today, and these games remain a staple at arcades in Japan.

Most modern arcade coin pushers have cards that players need to collect. In this instance, cards are periodically dropped onto the coin stacks, and players add coins with the goal of pushing tokens, coins, and cards off the ledge so that they can collect them. When someone wins, they can redeem the coin pusher cards at the arcade for a large number of tickets.

However, coin pusher cards keep players hooked using a psychological trick akin to slot machines or other gambling games. The card that players need to collect to win a significant prize is rare compared to other, less valuable cards. As a result, players typically collect the most common cards and can only receive the best cards after playing the game for an extended period of time.

Each time a person puts coins into the coin pusher, they feel closer to winning, so they continue to put money into the machine. When players constantly believe they’re just one game away from a big win, it creates a feeling of addiction similar to that tied to slot machines and other casino games.

Why Are Coin-Pushers Regulated?

Although some people consider coin pushers a harmless game, many states have laws that prohibit the use of coin pushers because they appear to encourage gambling. In most countries, it is illegal to use cash prizes as a reward, with most using tickets or tokens instead.

 All forms of coin pushers are illegal in most states, but those that use cash prizes have the most strict regulations. This is because the machine’s design enables an unknown amount of coins to spill on the side of the machine. When this occurs, the payout can end up going to the machine’s owners rather than the players.

Furthermore, the player’s ability to win is entirely based on chance rather than skill, and most people experience diminishing returns due to that machine’s design. As a result, coin-pushers are not considered entertainment but a targeted money-making strategy that must be regulated.  

The Legality of Coin Pushers and Other Gambling Machines

The penalties for illegally owning and operating a coin pusher machine are steep if you live in a state that prohibits them. In 2021, the gaming control board in Michigan issued 41 search warrants and seized 1,033 machines that contained over $248,000 in cash. Officials joined forces with the state Liquor Control Commission and attorney general to enforce 246 felony and misdemeanor charges as a result.

 The laws and regulations for coin pushers are similar to those of any other gaming machines that you may find in a casino. Regardless of the game’s premise, all of the machines are designed to make customers believe that they have an equal chance of winning the game, which goes against state and federal laws.

To remain in compliance, the legal casino industry invests millions of dollars towards ensuring that customers are able to play gambling machines responsibly. If players are in a licensed casino, there is signage they can use to reach gaming specialists at any time if there seems to be a problem. Illegal gambling machines do not have these resources because the machines are not monitored. In licensed casinos, machines are closely regulated by licensed, background-checked professionals. Employees may even ask customers to leave out of concern for their welfare if it appears that they are spending too much time at a machine.

The legal gaming industry contributes over $53 billion per year to the government, which improves infrastructure, funds educational institutions, and gives back to charitable organizations. On the other hand, the government has no way to regulate messaging or funds from illegal gambling machines, and they can contribute to a dangerous environment for players.

When consumers are deceived by illegal gambling devices, it increases the chance that customers will develop gambling addictions. Unregulated gambling machines lack the resources necessary to curb gambling addictions — for instance, the owners seldom post warning signage or look after customers using the machines. In addition, illegal gambling machines are closely related to criminal activity that involves money laundering, violent crimes, and drug trafficking.

While coin pushers were once extremely popular, most places had virtually eliminated them by the mid-nineties. Although you may still find illegal coin pusher machines in your local gas station, they are generally only inside casinos and arcades in states that allow gambling, such as Nevada.

Find Answers to Your Legal Questions on

Coin-pushers are a rare sight these days. But if you want to own a gaming or gambling machine, ensure that you do so legally to avoid repercussions.