The BBC has aired a documentary that accuses Thorpe Park of rigging the chances of players winning prizes on the games stalls that operate in the park.
In Your Money, Their Tricks, a new series which "fights back against the companies and industries trying to trick us out of our cash", the broadcaster sent two undercover researchers to work at the park. They claim that "tricks" were used to reduce the chance of players winning, although on some occasions the chance of claiming a prize was allegedly deliberately increased.
The tactics covered by the programme include waxing surfaces to increase friction, moving baskets to make it difficult to get a ball to drop into them and distracting people as they took aim. In one instance, a stallholder demonstrated the use of one type of ball, then handed the customer another type.
The games are run by HB Leisure under a contract from Thorpe Park's operator, Merlin Entertainments Group. The company's managing director, Alex Sparks, has moved to deny the claims made by the BBC show: "We utterly refute any suggestions that any of our games are not fair and we had provided detailed information, explanations and evidence to the programme, in advance, to prove this. But the BBC decided to ignore much of this information and has therefore presented a biased and incorrect view of the games. The rare instances where staff behaviour or games fell below standard were immediately checked and remedied."
An HB Leisure manager caught on camera by the BBC admitted that staff had "increased the difficulty level" of the games at strategic times. "We have more winners in the morning, those people just do the advertisement for us because they carry the prizes, so people will see they have them and they’ll come and play."
HB Leisure also runs the games stalls at Thorpe Park's sister parks Chessington World of Adventures, LEGOLAND Windsor and Alton Towers, as well as Paultons Park and Drayton Manor.