Carnival Games Can Make $600 Per Day. Here’s How

If you ever have considered carnival games from an entrepreneur’s perspective, you’ve probably thought, “How much money could I make?” I’m here to answer that question and more.

Whether you’re interested in the business or simply curious, here’s what you need to know about the profitability of carnival games:

Carnival games can make $600 per day. The typical daily earnings range is $500 to $1000, depending to your pricing, the type of the game, and the number of people playing. To maximize your earnings, price the games fairly enough to attract tens of customers a day and stock the most popular games. 

Still have questions? In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through the different factors that may affect the profitability of carnival games and how to calculate how much they can make in a specific period. But first, let’s cover the basics.

What Are Carnival Games?

Carnival games, as their name suggests, are games that can usually be found at traveling carnivals, amusement parks, arcades, or fairs. They can be games of skill, like Balloon and Dart or Whack-a-mole, or games of chance such as Dime Pitch or Duck Pond.

Carnival games are designed to be fairly simple to understand and operate 一 similar to vending machines, in a way. But unlike vending machines, carnival games are designed to offer a sense of entertainment and competition.

If you’ve played carnival games before, you probably remember that you’ve had to pay for each individual game separately.

Most carnival games work this way, charging small amounts of money every time you play a round.

The prices can range from a few cents to a few dollars, but most of them fall on the cheaper end of the scale. 

While carnival games can be entertaining in themselves, most of them offer prizes you can win if you hit a particular target or score enough points.

The aim of these games is to convince you to play as many times as possible. They do that my bot not only by offering a reward you can look forward to, but also by allowing you to trade your first reward for a bigger and better one if you continue playing.

Prizes can be different kinds of toys or stuffed animals, as well as game sets or accessories.

How Carnival Games Make Profit

Carnival games generate profit from every play, regardless of whether the player wins and receives a prize. If you’re an entrepreneur interested in carnival games, this means that you’re guaranteed to generate a reliable stream of revenue (money that you can later save and use to expand your business). The amount you can make on each played game differs depending on the type of game and the prizes offered when a player wins.

There are three main types of carnival games, each providing a different approach to generating a profit. All three types are pay-per-play, meaning they require cash or tickets every single time someone wants to partake.

The difference lies in the way players are rewarded for a win and the type of prizes offered:

Type 1: Games that Reward Participation

The first type includes games that reward the player every time they partake. In these games, players pay a certain amount of money and then win a prize every time they play. The prospect of winning a reward encourages them to play more. 

Naturally, the prizes themselves cost less than the cost of a play, so you’ll still generate a profit every time someone plays. These games are usually aimed at children and offer smaller prizes.

Type 2: Group Games

The second type includes games played in groups of people rather than individually. Players pay for every play, but only the player who hits a particular target or collects the most points is rewarded with a prize. 

Generally, I would say that these games can generate more profit than the first type, given that several players pay for one game and only one prize is given. Of course, the prizes may be costlier than those rewarded in the games described earlier, but there is still much more opportunity for profit, especially if more players are involved.

Type 3: Target-Based Games

Finally, the third type includes games that offer prizes based on whether you achieve something, like hitting a target, shooting the basketball through the hoop, or knocking down a number of bottles. These games are played individually and are always pay-per-play. 

The player pays to play and has limited chances to try and achieve the desired result. If they don’t achieve it within the allotted attempts, they do not receive a prize, and that results in a profitable round for you as the business owner. The odds of a player receiving a reward in these types of games are more or less predictable (one in five or one in six).

While these games are designed to be profitable every single time someone plays, they should be winnable. Games that are deemed too difficult to win quickly become something to avoid. Players will always favor games that can be won, no matter how challenging they can be at first. The goal is to keep your client hooked for as long as possible.

In some games, players are encouraged to keep playing even after they have won a prize. The game operator offers to upgrade to a better reward if the player gives up the initial prize and pays for a few more tries.

This way, the player can keep playing for bigger and bigger prizes while the operator makes more money. These are usually games that have pretty good odds of winning, convincing the player to keep playing for better rewards.

How Much Carnival Games Make

Carnival games can make anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a thousand dollars a day. The exact figure you make will depend on the type of game you offer and how many people play it in a day. If you know how many hours a day your games are operating and how many people would play in an hour on average, you can make some pretty accurate calculations.

Here’s a table summarizing the average earnings of a carnival game per day, per season, and per year:

Time PeriodAverage Income of a Carnival Game
Per Day$600
Per Season$16,000
Per Year$64,000

I previously talked about three different kinds of carnival games. In the following sections, I’ll be (roughly) estimating the earnings you can expect from each type.

Type 1

Let’s take the first type of game (mentioned in the previous section) into consideration. These games charge a fixed amount to play every game, and they reward players with a prize every time. 

The prize, of course, would cost at most half the amount players pay to play. Assuming the game charges $2 to play every time and the prize awarded costs $0.7, the profit from every time someone plays and gets a prize would be $1.30. If on average, 30 people play every hour and the game operates for 10 hours a day, you would make 10 (hours) x 30 (individuals) x $1.30 (profit per individual) = 390 dollars in one day. 

This equates to around $16,000 every season (provided the game operates three days a week).

Type 2

When it comes to games resembling the second model, the calculations need to include the fact that there are multiple players in every game, and only one prize is awarded at the end. The prize, in this case, will be more expensive, but more money will also be generated from multiple players. These games can be pretty profitable.

Let’s say the game charges $2 for every person to play, and ten groups of people play every hour, with every group having four members on average. If the game operates 10 hours every day, it will make 10 (hours) x 10 (groups) x 4 (individuals per group on average) x $2 (charge per individual) = 800 dollars every day. 

If every prize given to the winner of the group costs around $8, then ten winners from each group would receive in total $80 worth of prizes. This means that the game would actually make $800 – $80 = 720 dollars every day. 

Type 3

The calculations get slightly more complicated when it comes to games of the third type. In these games, individuals play in order to win prizes provided that they achieve a particular result. If they do not achieve the said result, they don’t win anything. The probability of someone winning needs to be taken into account.

We can assume that it costs $4 to play the game every time and that 40 people play it every hour. If the game operates 10 hours every day, it will generate 10 (hours) x 40 (individuals) x $4 (charge per individual) = 1,600 dollars of revenue a day. 

To see how much money the game would actually generate, we should take an average probability of someone succeeding in winning the game and thus claiming a prize. Let’s assume that the probability of a player winning is ⅕. Let’s also assume that a reward would cost $8. So there is a ⅕, or 20% chance that someone will claim a prize that costs $8, and a ⅘, or 80% chance that someone will not win anything.

Having assumed that 40 people would play every hour for 10 hours, and knowing the probability of one person winning, we can calculate the probable number of winners in a day in three steps: 

  1. 10 (hours) x 40 (individuals per hour) x ⅕ (probability of winning) = 80 people expected to win in one day. 
  2. Each of these people will be rewarded with an $8 prize. Therefore, 80 (winners) x $8 (prize per winner) = 640 dollars cost of prizes in one day.
  3. As a result, the game would actually make $1,600 (revenue) – $640 (cost of prizes) = 960 dollars every day. Not bad, right?

I should emphasize that these calculations are very simplistic, and many more factors would need to be taken into account when operating carnival games in actuality. The numbers I’ve chosen are averages and safe assumptions, and they might not accurately reflect a day of operating a carnival game. Still, they give a close enough picture. 

Even more complex calculations would have to be included for cases where there are different types of prizes for different types of results or when the player has the chance to exchange the initial prize for the opportunity to win a bigger one.

Rigged Carnival Games (Don’t Do this)

If you’re thinking of operating carnival games, you need to be aware that they have become subjects of controversy and skepticism among many people.

Much of the controversy is based on accusations of operators rigging the games, making them impossible to win.

Unlike a typical business like an ice-cream truck where there is a payment in exchange for a product or service, the benefit that clients get from carnival games is a bit more intangible.

There is some truth to claims of rigging because there are recorded cases of operators using tricks to make the games extremely difficult or downright impossible to win.

Additionally, some operators in the past have been known to target players who they would deem more gullible and try to convince them to play as many games as possible.

As a result, many people have become distrustful and avoid carnival games.

Some games can be easily rigged.

For example:, while shooting balls through a hoop can sound simple, some operators make the hoop much smaller or use optical illusions to make the player shoot the wrong way. 

Another example: is the Balloon and Darts game, where operators could use dull pointed darts or slightly deflate the balloons.

Because these games might seem winnable, players spend much more money trying and trying without success, spending significant amounts without ever winning.

As a result of proven cases of operators rigging carnival games, local law enforcement sometimes intervenes to test the games before they are open to the public. Once they ensure that games are fair, they allow operators to charge people to play. 

While this intervention decreases the chances of rigging, some operators still manage to rig games by making the games fair during testing by law enforcement and then rigging them before opening to the public.

At all rates, rigging a carnival game is a fairly short-sighted strategy (aside from being an unethical approach). So if you’re interested in making a living out of operating a carnival game, it’s best to stay away from these cheap tactics.

Final Thoughts

Carnival games are made to generate money while entertaining and rewarding players as much as possible to keep them playing. Generally speaking, carnival games can earn between $500 and $1,000 per day, depending on how many people are playing, what kind of prizes are given, and the probability of winning the game. Usually, group games or games that only award prizes for a less probable win make more money.


Hi’ my name is Simon. I am the owner of Top Work Life.

Together with a my team, I write content about income generating ideas, entreprenurship and growth as a person

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