Photo/IllutrationOsaka police confiscate a crane game from an arcade in Osaka's Naniwa Ward on Dec. 23. (Motofumi Watanabe)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA--Prefectural police here have picked up six individuals connected to a game arcade operator that rigged expensive crane games to make them unwinnable.

Takeshi Odaira, president of Osaka-based Amusement Trust, and five others, including company employees, were arrested on suspicion of fraud on Dec. 23.

Osaka police said this was the first case in Japan of arrests for defrauding customers of a crane game in which players maneuver a crane-like device in position to pick up prizes.

Amusement Trust operated game arcades in Osaka and Kyoto prefectures.

Police raided five arcades on Dec. 23. According to police, Odaira, 33, and his employees rigged the crane games at two arcades in Osaka in early December so no prize could be won. But workers at the arcades encouraged four women customers to continue playing because they were guaranteed to win. Police believe the four women were scammed of a total of about 470,000 yen ($4,150).

Some of the employees told police they were only following instructions from Odaira. Odaira, however, has told police he never gave orders to rig the machines.

The crane games under question offered valuable prizes such as game devices and computer tablets. For that reason, the price of playing one game was between 500 yen and 10,000 yen.

Employees demonstrated how easy it was to win, but police believe the rigging was done immediately thereafter.

Since 2015, Osaka police had received about 30 complaints from customers who said it was impossible to win any prize. Police suspect that about 6 million yen was taken from unsuspecting customers.

Internet chatter about the arcades operated by Odaira described the outlets as "rip-off joints." One posting said 180,000 yen had been lost without a single prize being won. Others said while employees easily maneuvered the device, the odds changed drastically when a paying customer tried his or her hand at the crane game.

"I was told by an arcade worker that I was guaranteed to win, but even if the device latched onto a stuffed doll, I did not end up winning it," said a 30-year-old company employee who once played at an Osaka arcade operated by Amusement Trust. "I spent 15,000 yen."