DÜSSELDORF, Germany -- The organizers of the IMA international trade fair for amusement and vending machines report that a recurrent theme at this year's event was industry consolidation. IMA 2011, held in mid-January at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Center, drew slightly larger attendance than last year's show -- 8,982 compared with 8,838 -- and resulted in a satisfactory volume of ordering activity, according to the sponsors.
The show's sponsors observed that interest this year was focused on screen-based gaming machines, "multigamers," with a cash-winning option. This segment of the market is largely saturated, however; the number of new amusement arcade projects is markedly smaller than in previous years. For this reason, equipment sales at present largely are driven by replacement and upgrading rather than expansion.
Entrepreneurs are concerned about a massive increase in amusement taxes in some cities. The German amusement, music and vending manufacturers' association, VDAI (Verband der Deutschen Automatenindustrie e.V.), observed that this is primarily the case in cities with government-operated casinos.
"Obviously, the idea is to recover the tax revenue lost due to self-inflicted losses in casino turnover," said Berlin-based VDAI. "Unfortunately, these increases made by cities in question create a considerable media echo and therefore have a signal effect for other local authorities. As a result, tax increases can quickly spread like wildfire."
Ongoing evaluation of Germany's 2006 Gambling Ordinance remains on the agenda. From VDAI's viewpoint, this has proved extremely valuable in terms of gambler protection and prevention. On the other hand, uncertainty over the prospects for future "fine tuning" of the law has made industry planning more complicated and problematic.
"Another aggravating factor is the discussion on the amendment of the Gambling Treaty," the association added. Although this does not directly address commercial gambling, some German states have attempted to extend their monopoly to include small-scale gambling.
These attempts were criticized by Prof. Dr. Kurt Biedenkopf, former president of Saxony, at the opening ceremony of IMA. Dr. Biedenkopf described the approach taken by some states as embodying a double standard, since their only motive has been to secure higher revenue. "I would say that the states in their capacity as entrepreneurs have set up a kind of cartel in order to establish a monopoly with the aim of increasing their revenue and, at the same time, squeezing commercial competitors out of the market," he said.
VDAI explained that, in principle, the industry is in favor of local authorities exercising their right to regulate the use of buildings. In a free market, entrepreneurship must be possible while respecting the framework set by local governments.
In his opening address, VDAI chairman Paul Gauselmann of Gauselmann Group (Espelkamp, Germany) emphasized that local authorities have all the tools they need. However, he reasserted the industry's right to offer citizens all over the country attractive entertainment by providing facilities for small-scale gambling. Because of the opportunities offered by the new Gambling Ordinance, he added, the cost of this entertainment to the gambling patron has dropped to less than e11 per hour. "This is a price which is fully competitive in today's market of recreational activities," Gauselmann said.
The first IMA trade fair was held in 1980. The 2012 show is scheduled for Jan. 17 through 20, again at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Center.