I was in the Vegas airport trying to choose a gift to bring back for my 8-year-old before I boarded my 6:40a flight on no sleep, no breakfast and functioning on nothing but Hennessy and Coke when I came across a cute little pink slot machine/piggy bank that dispensed real money when you hit jackpot. My dear, sweet, childless friend, who I just spent the weekend partying with for her bachelorette party saw me with the slot machine, gave me stank face and said, “Why would you encourage and promote gambling to your child?” My response, “Have you BEEN to Chuck E. Cheese’s? What do you think that is?” For the sake of not looking like a piece of sh— hung over (still tipsy) parent, who was already feeling guilty about pumping and dumping for last three days and devastated that the time away from my family was coming to an end— I settled on a non-dishwasher-safe $17 plastic cup that read, “Someone who loves me went to Las Vegas and bought me this cup.”

The very next weekend we had a Saturday afternoon birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Me: Yaaaaaaas! I didn’t get a chance to gamble last weekend in Vegas (because of bachelorette party festivities), so it’s about to go down! With my 11 month-old on my hip and my 8 year-old at my side, I added money to the pre-loaded birthday party play card because I planned on showing my whole ass in Chuck E. Cheese’s (there are cards now instead of tokens…just like at the casino), purchased a $4 beer and was ready to spend the next couple hours playing games of chance…with real money…with my children.

Unfortunately for momma, because I had to keep all eyes on my super active, power walking, 11 month-old — who was over-stimulated by all of the flashing lights and ringing bells — I couldn’t get my Vegas kicks off. So I enjoyed vicariously through my 8 year-old by following her around from game to game. And it was frightening.

She walked around intently like she was trying to find a loose slot machine, and once she chuck-e-cheese-gamesspotted a game that had given another kid a big win, she’d stand near it until it was unattended and then dash over to play it again and again and again. Disappointed for not getting a big win, she would stake out the next “winning” machine. I’d encourage her to move to another game and try something new that looked “fun,” but she wasn’t interested in fun; she wanted to win. I checked her card balance after a while and noticed she was running low and told her to pace herself and try to have fun. But she would just go right back to the games she played previously that had given her a pretty good winning of tickets. She would impulsively “Tap to Play” on the same machines and become agitated if she didn’t win more than at least five tickets each play.

chuck-e-cheese-prizes

Since we were there for a friend’s birthday party, I told her it was time to break away from the games to sing, “Happy Birthday” and eat cake. She stood there looking defeated and determined, “Nooooo! Everyone keeps getting jackpot on this game! I can’t leave. If I leave, someone else will win!” I’m thinking, “What in the Uncle Charles is going on here??!” (Because everyone has an uncle in their family with a serious gambling addiction; Charles just seems fitting). “You don’t wanna eat cake?!”

It took some stern, tight-lipped words, neck-rolling and finger pointing to get her away from the games and eventually out of Chuck E. Cheese’s. I watched my child display some very disturbing, addictive behavior. All for what? Glow in the dark vampire teeth and Airheads. I came home and did some quick research because I seriously wondered if Chuck E. Cheese’s was turning my baby into someone’s Uncle Charles. I learned that a California mother of two actually filed a lawsuit against the pizza chain for $5 million, claiming it exposed her children to “gambling-style devices.” Part of Chuck E. Cheese’s defense was that the mother was a willing participant of the alleged gambling. The suit was eventually dismissed.

For this mother, some of my child’s behavior I recognize as an innate part of her personality, some of her behavior is learned. While many children go to Chuck E. Cheese’s for the pizza and to have fun playing the games, my daughter is not one of them; she goes to win. And I don’t want to take any chances of encouraging compulsive, addictive behavior that could spiral out of control into adulthood. So that $17 plastic cup instead of the slot machine I brought her back from Vegas was a real win.

Sherkiya Wedgeworth
+ posts

Sherkiya Wedgeworth, is a federal news writer and editor and mother of two who is one of the few residents of Denver, Colorado who doesn’t smoke or ski. She prides herself on being an educated, working professional and partner who is “beautiful, brilliant, and a little bit ghetto.”

12 Comments on Chuck E. Cheese’s: Where a kid can be a 35 year-old trying to gamble back next month’s mortgage payment

  1. Kajette
    October 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm (12 months ago)

    Insightful!

    Reply
  2. Mimi Green
    October 26, 2016 at 9:46 am (12 months ago)

    This is a very fascinating perception. I’m anti Chuck e Cheese, it is the place parents go to not parent their kids. My nerves can’t take it, plus jacking up a kid for being a jerk while playing skee-ball is a crime.

    My son is very competitive about things, things one shouldn’t compete over like who can finish their food first. (side eye) Although he likes to win he isn’t addicted to it so to speak.

    I totally have an Uncle Charles. lol

    Reply
  3. Kirstin Fuller
    October 26, 2016 at 3:51 pm (12 months ago)

    I hate Chuck E. Cheese lol! The last time I went the kids attacked Chuck E. and I was done. Glad you reigned in your daughter (lol). In my family it was my Mother who was the gambler not Uncle Charles. lol

    Reply
  4. Stacie
    October 27, 2016 at 11:01 am (12 months ago)

    My kids love going to ChuckE Cheese and they’re grown now. I think friendly competition is good but you’re right, it’s best to curb it if you notice something concerning.

    Reply
  5. Tanya Barnett
    October 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm (12 months ago)

    I have not been to Chuck E Cheeses in forever…..This!! We quickly see ourselves in our kiddos.====>>>I watched my child display some very disturbing, addictive behavior. All for what? Glow in the dark vampire teeth and Airheads….

    Reply
  6. Michelle Malone
    October 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm (12 months ago)

    Interesting post! I hadn’t thought about Chuck E Cheese being as addictive as gambling in Vegas. I think it’s ok to be a little competitive. Don’t you?

    Reply
  7. Antoinette
    October 27, 2016 at 9:11 pm (12 months ago)

    Wow. I never thought of it that way . But if you really look at it, there’s not much of a difference . Interesting post .

    Reply
  8. Tiffany H.
    October 27, 2016 at 10:43 pm (12 months ago)

    So will you be taking her back to Chucke Cheese?? I guess you could take her behavior as she is determined to win but got a little over zealous and was very competitive. I would just st explain to her that it’s ok to want to win but that’s not the most important thing. I.e. You all were there to help celebrates a friend birthday

    Reply
  9. Kiwi
    October 28, 2016 at 3:19 am (12 months ago)

    Oh my wow! I am now seeing the correlation to Chuck E Cheese being the gatway place to gambling. OMG its programming for adulthood. Yeah thats not cool…Chuck E.Cheese need to make it less gambling and more about playing! But its all still a scheme to get money!!!

    Reply
  10. Eva
    October 31, 2016 at 6:50 pm (12 months ago)

    This was hilarious. Like really hilarious. I only go to Chuck E. Cheese’s if I have to. I already did a birthday party there, so… my parenting dues are paid in full forever.

    Reply
  11. Kim
    November 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm (12 months ago)

    You know, I never considered Chuck E Cheese being akin to a casino or gambling. It makes sense. Great post about your visit.

    Reply
  12. Holly
    November 14, 2016 at 4:01 pm (11 months ago)

    When I was a kid I was always there for someones birthday. I haven’t been there in ages! I feel so old. Maybe when I have kids or attend a kids bday they will have it there. I always see commercials.

    Reply

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