Trials & Litigation

Mom Sues Chuck E. Cheese's, Says Kids’ Games Are Illegal Gambling Devices

Updated: A San Diego mom has filed a potential class action against Chuck E. Cheese’s that claims its games are illegal gambling devices.

The federal suit by real-estate agent Denise Keller claims the games are similar to slot machines, the San Diego Union Tribune reports. Children play with tokens that cost 25 cents each, and the machines dispense tickets that can be redeemed for prizes.

California generally bans gambling, but it makes an exception for games of skill. The suit claims the games at Chuck E. Cheese’s are based mostly on chance and they “create the same highs and lows experienced by adults who gamble their paychecks or the mortgage payment.”

Lawyers for the company that owns the restaurant chain, CEC Entertainment Inc., are seeking dismissal of the case. They claim the games aren’t illegal, but if they were, Keller participated in the gambling and should be barred from collecting damages.

Update May 20 and 22: Keller dropped the federal case Thursday and refiled in California superior court in San Diego County, according to a press release issued by Keller’s law firm, Krause Kalfayan Benink & Slavens. The new suit has dropped a claim for damages and has a “narrow purpose,” the release says: a judicial order to remove 11 offending games from Chuck E. Cheese’s throughout California.

Keller withdrew her federal suit just one week before her lawyers were due to respond to a dismissal motion, according to Yvette Ostolaza, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who represents Chuck E. Cheese’s. “This is an unusual step and surprising considering it was Ms. Keller who had originally elected to file suit in federal court,” Ostolaza said in a statement forwarded to the ABA Journal. “We wish Ms. Keller would have permitted the court to rule on our pending motion. Her actions have resulted in unnecessary additional costs to the company and undue burden on judicial resources.”

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