LAS VEGAS — The Amusement and Music Operators Association and the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry staged their ninth successive co-located trade shows and conventions from September 27-29 at the Las Vegas Convention Center here.
Next year will see the final co-location of AMOA International Expo and Fun Expo, with the latter shifting to a spring co-location with the Amusement Showcase International in March of 2009.
The 2007 staging proved reasonably successful for both shows, drawing slightly fewer exhibitors and visitors than last year. Association leaders rated this performance as solid, given the challenging economic environment for operators and a still-shrinking amusement machine industry.
Outgoing AMOA president Howard Cole said, “Considering the softness of the market and the price of gas, hotels and airfare, we’ve had a really good show overall.”
Larry Davis, outgoing president of the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industries (Fun Expo’s majority owner), agreed: “The market is soft, but this year’s show exceeded my expectations because of the quality and quantity of attendees.”
AMOA Expo’s 153 exhibitors displayed products and services in 482 booths; both figures were down slightly from 2006. Fun Expo recorded 121 exhibitors in 224 booths, also a slight decline from the previous year. The shows drew a combined total of 5,662 visitors by the end of the second day. Show organizers said 3,892 registered for the AMOA show and 1,770 for Fun Expo during the first two days. Organizers said AMOA drew 1,944 buyers, compared with 2,099 last year.
Operators praised many new products shown at both expos. In addition to familiar products that received Innovation Awards from AMOA, more than 50 notable debuts and previews on the AMOA Expo side included notebook-style game platforms that are used in conjunction with jukeboxes; new jukebox models and upgrades to network platforms; several well-received driving- and fighting-themed videogames; a broader selection of redemption novelties and table games; plus new pinball games and kiddie rides, among a host of others. Fun Expo featured upgraded simulators and striking new variations on minigolf and other classic attractions.
A total of 43 exhibitors offered 54 show specials, allowing buyers to take advantage of many discounts. (See VT’s companion story in this issue for an account of specific new games, attractions and jukebox models displayed at both shows.)
A dominant theme of show-floor conversation involved intense speculation about the future of the U.S. trade show schedule. Fun Expo’s move to the spring, announced in August, has been openly supported by all three of the national amusement industry associations, including ASI’s owner, the American Amusement Machine Association.
Fun Expo’s move offers a timeframe that exhibitors said will make the event more competitive with the parks show, sponsored by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. IAAPA 2009 is set for a mid-November run in Las Vegas.
Yet, Fun Expo’s uncoupling from AMOA Expo has the potential to significantly reduce the latter’s size and scope, unless the association succeeds in efforts to find another leisure-oriented trade show to pair with. AMOA leaders told VT that such a search is underway, and in the meantime, the three associations have discussed the possibility of moving AMOA Expo to the spring, where it would join ASI and Fun Expo.
Several of AMOA Expo’s largest and longest-standing exhibitors said – not for attribution – that they strongly prefer the so-called “one show concept.” But AMOA departing president Cole and its executive vice-president Jack Kelleher stressed that no one will know the impact of Fun Expo’s move until after the fall of 2009, when the first solo AMOA show is completed and exhibitors decide whether or not to book space for the 2010 event.
Cole also observed that two very different groups typically patronize ASI and the AMOA show, and that it’s unclear how many street operators would support a spring event. Street operators prefer a September timeframe for seeing and purchasing new products, Cole explained, because many tavern routes don’t enter their strong earning seasons until mid-October.
AMOA past-president Frank Seninsky of Alpha-Omega (E. Brunswick, NJ) suggested that if AMOA vacates its traditional fall timeslot, an ambitious independent show organizer might pop up with plans to stage its own September exhibition. “If anybody does organize another fall show to replace AMOA, they might very well get a fair number of exhibitors,” Seninsky said.
Whether these objections are a genuine expression of AMOA leaders’ reluctance to merge with ASI, or simply a clever opening bargaining position, remains to be seen.
AMOA and IALEI installed new officers, and the latter adopted significant changes to its bylaws and structure. At the conclusion of the show, Lloyd Williamson of Williamson’s Amusements (Winona, MN) became Cole’s successor as AMOA president. Joining him as part of the AMOA 2007-‘08 officer slate were first vice-president Rus Mawdsley of Russell-Hall (Holyoke, MA); treasurer Gary Brewer of Brewer Amusement (McMinneville, TN); and secretary Donovan Fremin of Delta Music (Thibodaux, LA).
At the AMOA Annual Breakfast and Membership Meeting, 10 individuals were elected to serve three-year terms as directors. They include: Jack Brown of Mountain Coin Machine Distributors (Denver, CO); David Francis of Preferred Amusements (Baton Rouge, LA); Michael Holley of Southeast Game Brokers (Odessa, FL); Steward Horne of PlayTime Amusements (Pikeville, KY); Rod Kruse of Nebraska Technical Services (Omaha, NE); Richard LaFleur of I.F. LaFleur & Son (Devils Lake, ND); Mary Lavine of Bullseye Games (Madison, WI); James Marsh of Hart Novelty (Bellingham, WA); Steven Toranto of Birmingham Vending Co. (Birmingham, AL); and Hal Williamson of Gardner’s Up North (Rhinelander, WI). John Newberry of Venco Business Music (Bland, VA) was elected to serve a two-year AMOA director term.
Richard Sanfillippo of Sam’s Fun City (Pensacola, FL) took the helm as IALEI’s highest elected officer at the close of the Fun Expo. New bylaws were adopted to designate that post as chairman. The same bylaw revision meant that Tracy Sarris, recently known as IALEI’s executive director, became president of the organization. Association leaders said the new titles would give Sarris greater authority in her dealings with outside organizations.
New IALEI board members for 2007-’08 are immediate past-chairman Larry Davis of Davis Farmland; past-chairman Frank Seninsky; first vice-chair Dorothy Lewis of Fun Station Associates; second vice-chair Ed Tucker of Gator Park; secretary-treasurer Suzanne Provenzano of Elmwood Entertainment Center; and directors Bill Carlson of Profit Sense Consultants; Donnalee Corrieri of Unbelieva-Bills; Michelle Kapuscinski of Fiesta Village; Paul Kramer of Bullwinkle’s; Erick Lewko of The Bounce House; Alan Ramsay of CLM Entertainment; Pat Rothwell off Laser Mania/Game Systems; Martin “Bud” Umbach of Kokomo’s Family Fun Center; and Kevin Wieging of Ultrasound Special Events.
FUNDRAISING AND GAMES
Seven seminars coordinated by the AMOA Expo Education Committee were held Thursday through Saturday during the show, and were enjoyed by a solid number of showgoers and exhibitors. The best-attended session, with 65 participants, focused on protecting family businesses.
Fun Academy, the educational arm of Fun Expo, offered its usual extensive program of seminars and workshops. The top draw, an extensive redemption seminar, attracted 104 students.
Exhibitors at both shows generously sponsored the All-Show Cocktail Party, which attracted more than 1,500 industry professionals, as well as the AMOA Expo golf event, billed as the Fifth Annual Coin-Op Cares Golf Classic. The latter attracted 119 golfers and raised money for the association’s Coin-Op Cares Charitable & Education Foundation, as well as the AMOA political action committee.
The Wayne E. Hesch Scholarship raised more than $78,000 for the coin-op education program, with 52 companies providing products to raffle. The grand prize, a new FLHT Electra Glide Standard 2007 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, was won by John Newberry of Venco. Also on the education front, IALEI members made contributions to the Shasta Groene Charitable Trust, a college fund created to assist the young survivor of a child kidnapping plot a few years ago.
The AMOA Jukebox Promotion Committee sponsored another drawing for three jukeboxes; member operators who license their jukeboxes with the Jukebox License Office were eligible to enter.
On the AMOA show floor, an entertaining spectacle was provided when two dozen industry notables – including leaders from all three associations – took turns sitting on the platform of a dunk tank during the shows’ first two days. Showgoers paid $5 or $10 to pitch softballs at the target that would release the seating platform when hit. All the volunteers were dunked numerous times each, raising nearly $1,800 for Coin-Op Cares.
Fun and games were also part of Fun Expo. The IALEI booth invited visitors to take a swing at a “hole-in-one” to spin the prize wheel for one of dozens of redemption items.
AWARDS AND PRIZES
Winners of 2007 AMOA Innovator Awards were: Namco America for Jumpin’ Jackpot; Brady Distributing for the Let Me Dance imaging system; ICE for Deal Or No Deal; and MEI for its contactless bill validator.
IALEI supplier awards included Depth Charge by Water Wars as the best new product and Themed Monopoly from Sureshot Redemption as the best new redemption product. Sureshot’s customer service professional, Bryn Netz, won the best customer support honors for the third year in a row. Characters Unlimited and Art Attack were honored for the best small and large Fun Expo exhibit booths, respectively.
IALEI honored Fun Expedition (Johnson City, TN) and Knight’s Action Park & Caribbean Water Adventure (Springfield, IL) for best marketing and promotions. Best new or renovated FECs were Mulligan Family Fun Center (Palmdale, CA) and Diversia (Madrid, Argentina).
Creative party awards went to TreePaad (Glens Falls, NY) and Space Odyssey USA (Englewood, NJ). The best website award went to Amazing Pizza Machine (Omaha, NE). Best redemption and food service displays, respectively, went to Family Fun Center (Tukwila, WA) and Play Café (Oakland, CA).
Mark Body of Fun Fore All (Cranberry Township, PA) was named FEC manager of the year; the best community service project award went to Triple Play Family Fun Park (Hayden, ID).
The 2008 AMOA International Expo and Fun Expo will again be held in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center in North Halls 3 and 4 from Wednesday, September 10, through Friday, September 12. Information will be available at amoashow.com and funexpo.com. Fun Academy will run Sunday, September 7, to Friday, September 12, 2008.