Chance or skill – The Clown machine in court


December 14, 1915
The distinction between a game of skill and a game of chance was considered in the Divisional Court of the King’s Bench to-day, when the appeal against a conviction by the Liverpool Stipendiary in what is known as the Clown machine case was heard.

Counsel said the appellants, Mr. Ernest Albert Peers, manager of the Eclipse Automatic Company, a confectioner, of Liverpool, were each fined 20s., Peers for using the shop and Mrs. Taylor for permitting the shop to be used for betting purposes.

The case arose out of the use of what was known as a a Clown machine installed in Mrs. Taylor’s shop by the Eclipse Automatic Company.

Clown machine

The machine, an automatic one, stood upon a pedestal, and a person about to use it dropped a halfpenny into the slot, which released a miniature football at the top of the machine. The football fell down the other side of the machine, where, controlled by a handle, stood he figure of a clown with a cap in his hand.

The aim of the player was to get the ball into the clown’s cap, whereupon a metal check for twopence, exchangeable at the counter of the shop, was released. Before the Liverpool Court the appellants claimed, and still claimed that it was a game dependent entirely upon the skill and deftness of the player, whose entrance fee entitled him to the pleasure of the game and the prospect of a prize.

Clown machine 2

If the Liverpool Stipendiary’s view were upheld it would mean, claimed counsel, that the admission or entrance fee in repsect of any game of skill where the person ultimately got a prize of such value that it could be expressed in arithmetical ratio to the amount of the entrance fee, was a betting transaction.

Counsel for the respondent submitted that he magistrate was right in ignoring the question whether the game played on this machine was one of skill or chance.

The Betting Act did not mention games of skill or chance, and did not draw any distinction.

By a majority the appeal was dismissed with costs.
(Source: Derby Daily Telegraph: December 14, 1915)

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